Virgin Galactic shares rocket higher on plans for first commercial flight this month

Shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings on Thursday made a scorching run higher after the space-travel company said it plans to begin offering commercial flights into space near the end of this month, a significant breakthrough for the nearly 20-year-old company founded by Richard Branson.

Shares rocketed 44% after hours on the news.

“We’re opening space travel to anyone who has ever wondered what is above and beyond,” the company said in a tweet.

Virgin Galactic’s

first flight, named Galactic 01 and focused scientific research, is set to take off between June 27 and June 30. Virgin is planning the second — Galactic 02, geared toward what it called “private astronauts” — for launch in early August, with monthly flights to follow.

Galactic 01’s journey will be for scientific purposes, and will carry three crew members from Italy’s air force and the National Research Council of Italy looking to conduct research on microgravity, Virgin said.

“With scientific payloads on board, the spaceflight will showcase the value and power of the unique suborbital science lab that Virgin Galactic offers,” the company said in a statement.

The announcement follows Virgin’s completion of its Unity 25 spaceflight last month. That flight — its fifth overall — was the first crewed mission in nearly two years.

However, Virgin Galactic reported a bigger-than-expected loss in its most recent quarter. And Branson’s satellite-launch company, Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

At the close of Thursday’s trading, shares were still down 32.9% over the past 12 months. And of the nine analyst stock ratings on Virgin Galactic tracked by FactSet, only two were “buy” ratings.

Read more from source