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CNBC 02 July, 2021 - 06:37pm 43 views

Is Richard Branson going to space?

Virgin's July 11 launch will include four passengers, including Branson. ... In August 2020, Branson said he was planning on making his first trip to space in early-2021, but those plans were delayed somewhat after a computer malfunction delayed a previous Virgin Galactic test flight in February. CNBCRichard Branson vs. Jeff Bezos: How the two space-bound billionaires stack up

Who is going to space with Jeff Bezos?

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson is aiming to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days. Branson's company announced Thursday evening that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board. Associated PressRichard Branson announces trip to space, ahead of Jeff Bezos

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Stock in space tourism pioneer Virgin Galactic is on the move again because a battle between billionaires is heating up. And this is a battle people can watch.

Galactic (ticker: SPCE) shares are soaring, with a gain of about 15% to just over $50 in early trading. The gain was some 30% before the market opened.

The reason for the bounce is another test flight. The company announced its next flight, which will be fully crewed and will carry founder and billionaire Sir Richard Branson into space.

The flight is slated to leave as soon as July 11. That’s significant because it’s earlier than another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, plans to leave the earth. Bezos is taking his brother and the winning bidder in an auction for a seat into orbit in a Blue Origin rocket on July 20. Blue Origin is the space company Bezos founded.

The third person paid $28 million for the right to be first.

Space aficionados, as well as investors, can watch the Branson flight on Virgin Galactic.com and the company’s TwitterYouTube, and Facebook channels. The live stream is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Eastern time on the day of the flight.

Virgin Galactic investors might already feel like they have been on a rocket after the recent performance of their investment. Shares traded below $15 in early May after the company ran into flight-testing delays, but they surged to almost $56 by late June, after the delays were resolved, another test flight went ahead, and the company received a commercial license allowing it to carry passengers.

That isn’t all the recent trading volatility. The stock has traded down every day this week after a couple of analysts downgraded shares after prices blew past their price targets. Now, the shares are up again on the Branson news.

Coming into Friday’s trading, Galactic stock was up about 82% year to date, far better than comparable returns of the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average. Investors are high on the prospects for space tourism.

Including the premarket gains, the company’s market capitalization was roughly $13 billion, about the same as Vail Resorts (MTN).

Vail and Galactic have very different growth profiles. Vail Resorts, though, is expected to generate $1.9 billion in 2021 sales, with $2.6 billion anticipated in 2022. Galactic, for comparison, is expected to generate about $3 million in 2021 sales, and $53 million in 2022.

Vail trades for about 41 times estimated 2022 earnings. Galactic isn’t expected to be profitable in 2022.

Which will it be: Head for the slopes…or head for the stars?

Write to allen.root@dowjones.com

Stock in space tourism pioneer Virgin Galactic is on the move again because a battle between billionaires is heating up.

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The husband-and-wife team taking on Bezos, Branson and Musk

Yahoo Finance 02 July, 2021 - 10:15pm

Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter, through their company Space Perspective, are offering people a series of six-hour flights into space, set to take off as soon as the end of 2024.

The couple, who are both industry luminaries and were founding crew members of Biosphere 2, said that the luxury spaceflight experience makes seeing the earth from space “as accessible as stepping on an airplane”.

“It really became clear that that suborbital level of going to space is where the tourism market is going to be,” MacCallum said.

“When you ask an astronaut, ‘what’s the quintessential experience’, they always say the same thing – it’s looking out of the window, peacefully, in a meditative way, seeing the earth in the blackness of space, seeing all the human family in one context.

“They don’t talk about the microgravity, they don’t talk about the rocket ride that much, that’s what they talk about. So we were thinking, how do you deliver that experience without the rocket ride with time to really soak it in.”

Read more: Billionaire blast off: Richard Branson plans space trip ahead of rival Bezos

The company will allow explorers to travel to 100,000 feet (30,000m) to space on a pressurised spaceship capsule – Spaceship Neptune – lifted by a spaceballoon as large as a football stadium, which incorporates patented technology also used by NASA.

The capsules allow up to eight passengers and a pilot on the six-hour round trip, which includes the journey up and down, at slow speed of 12 miles per hour, as well as two full hours for the breathtaking 360-degree view. “It’s all really slow and gentle,” MacCallum said.

It includes reclining leather seats, a bar with an open call on champagne, WiFi, and onboard toilet facilities.

Reservations are now open to the public, and the company has already had over 300 seats reserved. Spaceflights for 2024 have sold out and it is now taking bookings for 2025.

Travel adventurers looking to upgrade their bucket list will be set back $125,000 (£9,061) a ticket, with first launches departing from Florida. The company hopes to extend this worldwide over time and eventually reduce ticket costs.

“If you can get on a commercial airliner, you can get on this more or less, that already opens it up to a much broader market,” Poynter said.

“We are already a lot less than anybody else flying, in the long-term we are certainly looking at bringing the costs down further.”

She added that the company had flown kids' experiments and art into space for people who had won competitions, and was looking to expand to locations across the globe, including somewhere in Europe.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Taber’s love for space started at a young age, admiring his father who worked as an astrophysicist and did astronomy work for NASA. His father’s work was focused on the study of gamma rays using spaceballoons.

“I grew up with these huge balloons that were launched from an air force base in New Mexico, and so the idea sort of came together, let’s bring back human flight under a balloon,” he said.

He added: “My birthday is 20 July so we had a birthday party when people first landed on the moon [20 July 1969], and it was a great time and very inspiring time to be growing up. It’s always been in my blood.

Poynter, who grew up on the shores of Southern England, similarly developed a love for space growing up.

“I was one of those kids that was reading science fiction with my torch underneath the bedcovers, so I’ve been fascinated with space and space travel my entire life.

“Growing up in England it wasn’t apparent to me then that it was something I could actually do, so getting involved in the Biosphere 2 project really opened my eyes up to the possibilities.”

The expert diver added that she was also inspired by the transatlantic journey of Clare Frances and Jane Goodall.

After developing and serving as crew members in Biosphere 2, and starting the successful aerospace company Paragon Space Development Corporation, the pair have worked together for the last 30 years.

Last month, the company successfully completed their inaugural test flight of Neptune One, becoming the first space launch operator to fly from the Space Coast Spaceport.

During the historic six hour and 39-minute test flight, cameras onboard the capsule captured an image of earth at sunrise, showcasing views that customers will enjoy during their journey with Space Perspective.

“This is an inherently safe technology because it has been flown so many times around the world by NASA and other governments,” Poynter highlighted. “Then there’s the redundancies of the parachute which is always there as a backup, then we can also fly the vehicle autonomously without a human on board.”

She added: “What that gives us, for a testing programme, it allows us to really push the envelope and test all of these backup systems to make sure that they work, without ever putting a human onboard so you can really push it much more than you would otherwise.”

The market for space tourism is currently valued at $700bn (£509bn), however the company notes that it is inundated with expensive, high-octane thrill rides in the style of Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic.

One of the unique selling points of Space Perspective is that, unlike space rockets, there is minimal preparation and no training required for guests. It does not use rocket propulsion or G-force acceleration.

As the Branson-Bezos space race continues, MacCallum and Poynter, who acted as technical advisers to Elon Musk on human spaceflight before SpaceX became a reality, remain unperturbed.

“I think the whole Bezos, Branson thing about who’s going to go first is brilliant – it’s brilliant marketing for everybody. We all get to be part of this competition between them and see what they are doing,” MacCallum said.

“Because the market is so huge, we aren’t competing. All of us are going to be operationally limited for decades, it’s such a massive market. It’s better for us to work together, and each have our niche in what we do and support each other so we can then be competitive.”

Poytner added: “We are really focused on what we are doing, not on what they’re doing.”

Richard Branson is going to space first. Just nine days before Jeff Bezos, the Virgin Galactic boss is joining VSS Unity's next test flight. The post Sorry Bezos, Richard Branson Is Going to Space First appeared first on Nerdist.

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Virgin Galactic aims to launch Richard Branson into space on July 11

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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo craft is due to take off on July 11 with the company's founder on board.

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Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson will travel to the edge of space on Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc's test flight on July 11, Branson's space tourism firm said on Thursday, beating out fellow aspiring billionaire astronaut Jeff Bezos. A successful flight by Branson aboard Virgin's VSS Unity spaceplane would mark a key milestone in a race to usher in a new era of private commercial space travel. It would also mean that Branson would travel beyond Earth's atmosphere ahead of Bezos, the founder of rival space tourism venture Blue Origin.

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Virgin Galactic announced Thursday plans to launch its billionaire founder Richard Branson into space on July 11.Why it matters: he date is nine days before Jeff Bezos, founder of Virgin Galactic competitor Blue Origin, is set to take off to space.Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.Branson will journey to space in Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft along with two pilots and three other mission specialists as part of the company's fourth crewed mission.

The 82-year-old will become the oldest person to reach space.

Virgin Galactic rallies on July 11 spaceflight test announcement

Yahoo Finance 02 July, 2021 - 02:14pm

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, I want to talk now about space. Because Sir Richard Branson is headed to space as Virgin Galactic plans to have its founder on board its next test space flight in the middle of July. We have Yahoo Finance's Emily McCormick now, here with all of the details. Hi, Emily.

EMILY MCCORMICK: Hi, Kristin. That's right. And we are seeing shares of Virgin Galactic getting a boost today on the heels of that announcement. Now the stock has pared many of its gains it was up as much as 26% today at session highs, but it's now hovering higher by just about 5%. But really, the race to get a founder of a space company into space is heating up, as we see this standoff now between Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin in terms of their next space flight timing.

So Virgin Galactic just announced that it's aiming to launch its next test space flight on Sunday, July 11th. So that is in just a bit over a week. And this would include founder Sir Richard Branson on the flight. Now this would be just over one week before Blue Origin is expected to launch its own founder, Jeff Bezos, into space on July 20th. So the competition between these two companies has been pretty pronounced.

Of course, Virgin Galactic has previously said that it doesn't see Blue Origin necessarily as a direct competitor. But we should point out that both of these companies are going to be trying to get customers into the space tourism, and particularly, the suborbital space tourism business. So that is impossible to ignore the parallels between these companies.

Now this is going to be the 22nd flight test for the VSS Unity spacecraft after more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing for this company. It is also the fourth test that we're seeing with a crew. But it is the first mission with a full crew of four mission specialists, including Sir Richard Branson. In its most recent spaceflight prior to this, that did take place in late May. There were only two mission specialists on board. And this is also the first time that Virgin Galactic is going to be live streaming the space flight with the feed available on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. So definitely a marketing push there coming alongside this mission.

But importantly, we should point out that getting Sir Richard Branson, their founder, into space is an important milestone for this company to hit. It is said that it will still have another two space flight tests leading up to its eventual broadening out and actually accepting those commercial space flights and launching paying passengers into space. They're aiming to have that begin in early '22, 2022. So really quite an expedited timeline here that we see for Virgin Galactic, which, as we know, is still a pre-revenue company. But we'll see if it's able to actually get a little more momentum here in terms of its financial results once those commercial space flights are able to take effect. Guys.

KRISTIN MYERS: Of course, Sir Richard Branson trying to beat Jeff Bezos first to space on Blue Origin. And of course, Sir Branson is braver than both myself and Alexis because we've already done a poll, and we've decided that neither one of us would ever get on a space aircraft. I don't know if you would be willing to go to space, Emily. But I definitely am not.

EMILY MCCORMICK: No, I think that I'm with you there, Kristin. I would not be getting on this test flight anyway.

KRISTIN MYERS: So we'll definitely be watching that live stream. Thanks so much, Emily, for all of those details.

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Virgin Galactic’s stock price rallied by 28% at Friday’s pre-market trading session after the company announced that founder Richard Branson would be onboard its July 11 space flight.

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