Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will find out on Monday what the public markets think of its ambitious plan to make commercial space tourism a reality. The company’s shareholders have approved a merger, announced earlier this year, with Chamath Palihapitiya’s special Social Capital Hedosophia holding company, which will take effect Friday, followed by a debut on the NYSE for the newly merged public entity on Monday.
Virgin Galactic and Palihapitiya announced the arrangement back in July, which will involve an $800 million investment in Virgin Galactic. Branson’s Galactic, one of two Virgin-branded space companies (the other is Virgin Orbit, which intends to provide orbital commercial small satellite launch capabilities), will seek to bring paying tourists to sub-orbital space using its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft and modified carrier airplane launch platform.
Virgin Galactic recently debuted the spacesuits its paying passengers will wear on the $250,000 tourist jaunts to space, which will begin in the first half of next year if the company sticks to its most recent public timeline. Its spacecraft can host up to six paying passengers, meaning each flight could earn the company up to $1.5 million in revenue. Virgin Galactic says it has more than 600 people already in the queue to take the trip.
Monday’s trading day should reveal what kind of confidence public market investors have in the value of that business proposition. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic is already booking customers for research missions as well, indicating it can also look beyond just the very wealthy for revenue sources.