Virgin Galactic takes a huge step to becoming first publicly traded, human spaceflight company

Last December, after Virgin Galactic’s historic first spaceflight, I penned a letter to my grandchildren, trying to express the importance of that achievement to future generations. I wrote: “Virgin Galactic has shown that when you set off on challenging but important adventures, exceptional people come forward to join the journey. People who are consistently by your side and on your side, people who share your dreams and people who help make them reality.” That has been so true of my personal space journey, which started, incredibly, almost exactly 50 years ago as Neil and Buzz took that giant leap; and also of our Virgin Galactic journey, which started 35 years later.

SpaceShipTwo in space

Right from Virgin Galactic’s start, incredibly talented and dedicated people joined our teams, many of them giving up successful, secure jobs elsewhere; often moving hundreds of miles with their families to the Mojave Desert. Our 600 Future Astronauts from 60 countries have become one of the most engaged and motivated communities I have ever seen. Then, our partners: world class brands like Land Rover and Under Armour, the State of New Mexico, which built our beautiful home at Spaceport America, all working with us to strengthen our business and elevate our customers’ journeys, in ways we couldn’t possibly achieve by ourselves. Together, we are a formidable force – and we need to be, because 50 years after the first moon landing, space is still hard!

Spaceport America

Today, we became more formidable still, by announcing that Virgin Galactic, along with its sister manufacturing organisation, The Spaceship Company, has taken a huge step towards becoming the very first publicly listed human spaceflight company and therefore available to equity investors. This achievement is being made possible by joining forces with a New York Stock Exchange-listed investment vehicle, which has many underlying investors, but led by two visionary business leaders, Chamath Palihapitiya and Adam Bain.  Having got to know Chamath and Adam over the past few months I have no doubt that we will be better together and am delighted they are becoming such important partners on our amazing journey. Together we will make our dreams reality.

Richard Branson with VSS Unity

Opening Virgin Galactic to further external investment has been on the cards for a while. Great progress in our test flight programme means that the remaining hurdles, before our beautiful spaceship starts a full commercial service, are steadily being cleared. Having sadly had to pull away from an investment by Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and then having demonstrated the repeatability our full flight profile with two crewed spaceflights, we had an opportunity to rethink our investment plans.

Spaceships being built by The Spaceship Company

We know that millions of people are deeply inspired by human spaceflight, would love to become more involved and, ultimately experience space for themselves. By taking Virgin Galactic public, at this advanced point in its development, we can open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts.

Next week as we look back on the decade of Apollo with wonder and gratitude, I believe we can do so with the excitement that comes from knowing we are at the dawn of a new space age, and with the optimism that recognises its huge potential to improve and sustain life on Earth.  

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