Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE), founded by billionaire Richard Branson, is racing to become the first company to commercialize space travel. On Friday, the firm finally received the thumbs up from U.S. regulators to allow the spaceflight company to bring paying customers into space, a major win as the venture completes its development testing. The license is the first of its kind approved by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
Following the news, Galactic’s shares surged 38% on Friday. This jump marked a fourfold increase since the stock hit a low in May when investors grew concerned about a long delay to the company’s test programme. However, since that dip, the suborbital craft has successfully completed its first test in over a year.
Now, with the approval from the FAA, Galactic’s Unity spacecraft can carry commercial passengers. Virgin Galactic already has around 600 tickets reserved for future flights, which sold between $200,000 and $250,000 each.
When is Virgin Galactic going to space?
With the license under his belt, Branson is planning to take a personal trip to the edge of space. Galactic has explained that this flight will be part of three more tests that the company is going to run before it starts carrying passengers in its six-seat craft.
A report emerged earlier this month that said Galactic may be reorganizing its flight schedule for Branson’s next journey over the July 4th weekend. The news just so happened to come out just after Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos said he was planning to fly on Blue Origin’s first passenger space flight on July 20. Therefore, the push to get Branson’s flight scheduled sooner suggests he may be trying to beat Bezos to space.
The space travel sector will be one that investors will be watching closely, with Amazon and Virgin Galactic leading the way, it will be interesting to see not only who wins the race, but what other players join.
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