In a move that makes you wonder how often rich guys watch Iron Man, Richard Branson is going public with Virgin Galactic, his commercial space flight company.
On Tuesday, the billionaire announced in a statement that his space tourism operation is coming to the stock market. The company will be merging with Social Capital Hedosophia (IPOA), a public investment firm that trades on the New York Stock Exchange. SCH will have a 49% stake in the merged entity.
The deal is expected to finalize in the second half of 2019, with the value of the new company estimated at approximately $1.5 billion.
Virgin Galactic will be the “first publicly listed human spaceflight company,” according to the statement.
The announcement comes seven months after the first of two test flights aboard Galactic’s rocket-powered space plane, called SpaceShipTwo.
In December, two pilots manned the first suborbital flight, which exceeded an altitude typically used as the boundary of space, reaching about 13,100 meters. The second, in February, soared to a record altitude of 56 miles, this time with two pilots and, for the first time, an additional crew member.
The two test flights closely followed the path planned for the commercial space journeys, which are slated to fly the first customers in the first half of 2020. At the moment, there is a waitlist of about 600 people lined up for SpaceShipTwo’s commercial missions. The price tag is hefty (or a steal, depending how you look at it), with most of those waitlisted agreeing to pay between $200,000 to $250,000 for a seat. So far, Galactica has collected around $80 million in deposits from these customers.
Among the first passengers? Branson himself of course.
Branson has said “demand is enormous,” and expects ticket prices to come down overtime with the addition of more planes, two of which are currently under construction at Galactica’s facilities in Mojave, California.