Branson’s Virgin Galactic cleared to lift off as space tourism race heats up

  • FAA approval follows successful flight test in May
  • Branson takes on Bezos’ Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX
  • Virgin Galactic shares jump 40%

June 25 (Reuters) – Virgin Galactic (SPCE.N), billionaire Richard Branson’s spacecraft company, said on Friday it had received approval from the U.S. aviation safety regulator to ferry people into space, increasing the pressure on its rivals in the nascent and expensive sector of space tourism. .

Shares of the company jumped 40% to $56.40, their highest level since February, after more than doubling in value this year.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval comes at a critical time for Branson as his space venture takes on Amazon.com founder’s Blue Origin (AMZN.O) Jeff Bezos and Tesla Inc boss’ SpaceX (TSLA. O) Elon Musk.

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Bezos, Branson and Musk have invested billions of dollars in their rocket startups.

Branson, who is said to have flown to space out in a bid to beat rival billionaire Bezos to the final frontier, was given the green light just a month after a successful test flight.

Last month, Virgin Galactic made its first manned spaceflight from its new home base of New Mexico in May, as its six-passenger SpaceShipTwo craft glided to a safe runway landing with its two pilots. Read more

The company said it has more than 600 bookings for 90-minute flights that include several minutes of weightlessness, priced at $250,000 a ticket.

“Today’s approval from the FAA…gives us confidence as we head into our first full-crewed test flight this summer,” said Virgin Galactic chief executive Michael Colglazier. , in a press release.

As of Friday afternoon, the company’s shares were on track to post their biggest one-day gain in nearly five months.

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Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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