Virgin Galactic, one foot in the stock market, one in the galaxy

Published on:

Virgin Galactic will be the first galaxy tourism company to list on the stock exchange on Monday. An initiative to raise funds to send tourists to the galaxy as soon as possible and gain an advantage over its main competitors.

Buy part of galaxy tourism. This is what British entrepreneur Richard Branson wants to offer by continuing with the IPO of his company Virgin Galactic on Monday, October 28. It will be the first company in the galaxy’s tourism sector to start in the financial markets.

Virgin Galactic has been preparing since its creation in 2004 to take civilians on a trip to the edge of space. The funds the company hopes to raise on the occasion of its listing on the New York Stock Exchange should allow it to meet the deadlines set by Richard Branson: arrange its first space trip in mid-2020.

A $ 250,000 paper

The California company will be the first to use a private commercial vehicle launch to send tourists into space. Russia produced, until 2009, its Soyuz rockets to organize some tourist stays on the International Space Station (ISS). Richard Branson has already reserved his place to be the first passenger of his SpaceShipTwo, which is supposed to fly at an altitude of approximately 83 km. He will be joined by five other tourists of more than 600 wealthy Earthlings who have booked their tickets for an average of $ 250,000.

If Virgin Galactic stays on its targets, the company will take advantage of its two main competitors in America: SpaceX and Blue Origin. The battle for space tourism can currently be summed up as a cockfight of Silicon Valley stars. Opposite Richard Branson, SpaceX is piloted by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, also known for being the boss of electric car brand Tesla, and Blue Origin is owned by Jeff Bezos, the richest man on Earth and CEO of Amazon.

It was also a revenge for Virgin Galactic on the other two heavyweights in the sector. Until 2018, Richard Branson’s company was the only one to fail to make a suborbital test flight, meaning it reached an altitude of 100 km. It finally succeeded in December 2018, lagging a bit behind SpaceX and Blue Origin, both of which had already made this step in the early 2010s.

A three billion dollar market

Since 2009, the dreams of the very rich to take a vacation in space have been based on unfulfilled promises. Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have repeatedly pushed back the date of the first suborbital tourist flight. Virgin Galactic’s IPO could be a game-changer: pressure from shareholders should encourage the company to stay on its schedule.

These wealthy entrepreneurs are even more eager to take the next step because the sector promises to be profitable. In a review published in March 2019, Swiss bank UBS predicts that space tourism could bring in more than two billion dollars by 2030 if the first flights are arranged before the end of this decade.

It could even be worth nearly $ 20 billion, if these companies weren’t limited to the occasional outings for a few billionaires in search of thrills. For UBS, supersonic flights connecting cities like Paris and Tokyo in less than 30 minutes can be the most lucrative business. This is one of the main bets of Elon Musk who promised, in 2017, that his “Big F ** cking Rockets” (BFR, which is also the code name of the project …) will achieve this before 2022.

Space hotel and summer camp on Mars?

Who says tourist, also says space hotels. At one point, NASA was interested in this idea and announced its project to turn some parts of the International Space Station (ISS) into a luxury hotel for multi-billionaires from 2020. The American agency plans to charge almost $ 35,000 a night on site.

Other companies, such as SpaceX and Bigelow Space Operation, would rather imagine setting up colonies on the Moon or in space, in the model of Deep Space Nine, the space station of the eponymous series.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk faces the Martian clouds. “I want to die on Mars, not in a crash”, he assured in 2013. He wants to send the first reconnaissance mission in 2022 to test the waters, to realize the “dangers associated with colonization” of the planet, can let’s read on the SpaceX website. On the other hand, the company remains more vague on the date when the colonization itself should begin.

While waiting for these fun dreams to become clearer, particularly about technological and financial possibilities, Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, remains the last tourist in the galaxy. A privilege that cost him 35 million dollars to spend nine days aboard the ISS.

Leave a Comment