Virgin Galactic has announced it has reached an agreement to merge with investment firm Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH). The move will inject several hundred million dollars of capital into the company allowing it to become the first publically traded commercial human spaceflight provider.
Following a test of the company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle last December, that marked the first time the vehicle had flown beyond an altitude of 80 kilometres, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson stated that he expected the milestone to attract new investors. In a July 9 press release, Virgin Galactic revealed that to be the case with the announcement of the merger with SCH.
The merger will see the investment firm take a 49 percent stake in the merged company at a valuation of $1.5 billion. Additionally, SCH founder and chief executive Chamath Palihapitiya will invest $100 million into the company
“By embarking on this new chapter, at this advanced point in Virgin Galactic’s development, we can open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts,” said Branson. “We are at the dawn of a new space age, with huge potential to improve and sustain life on Earth. I am delighted that SCH has decided to become such an important part of our amazing journey.”
Hyperbole aside, the injection of capital will allow Virgin Galactic to transition its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, which is in the final phases of testing into full commercial operations. It is, however still unclear when the vehicle’s maiden commercial flight will take place and what kind of flight cadence will be achieved following its maiden flight.