Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE), the space tourism company founded by Richard Branson, revealed exciting news today. After much anticipation, the company announced that its long-awaited commercial spaceflight service will commence later this month. Consequently, the company’s shares experienced a significant surge of over 43% in after-hours trading.
The inaugural spaceflight, aptly named “Galactic 01,” is scheduled to take place between June 27 and June 30, according to the company’s official statement. Following this historic event, “Galactic 02” will follow suit in early August. Furthermore, Virgin Galactic plans to continue offering monthly spaceflights in the future.
Virgin Galactic faced setbacks in the past, resulting in a sharp decline in the value of its shares by more than two-thirds last year. However, with this announcement, investor confidence has been reignited, and the company’s shares saw an impressive increase to $6.30 during aftermarket trading on Thursday.
The company temporarily halted flights of its spaceplane, VSS Unity, and its carrier plane in 2021 to implement crucial spacecraft enhancements. These enhancements were necessary to ensure the safety and quality of the space tourism experience. As a result, the debut customer mission to the edge of space was delayed.
Fortunately, in February of this year, Virgin Galactic proudly announced the completion of an extensive upgrade period for its flagship tourist spacecraft. This significant milestone cleared the path for the company’s first-ever commercial spaceflight. As a testament to the positive development, Virgin Galactic’s shares have already risen approximately 16% since the beginning of 2023.
The maiden commercial mission will carry three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy. Their primary objective will be to conduct microgravity research during this groundbreaking voyage into space.