Virgin Galactic loses funding from its billionaire founder

Richard Branson on a Virgin Galactic test flight in 2021. Virgin Galaxy

Richard Branson says he will no longer put money into Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company he founded in 2004.

The surprising decision, first reported by Financial timescausing the value of the company’s shares to fall sharply on Monday.

Branson told the Times: “We don’t have the deepest pockets after Covid, and Virgin Galactic got $1 billion, or close to it.”

He added that by now, Virgin Galactic should have “sufficient funds to do its own thing.”

Virgin Galactic flew its first commercial passenger to space in June and has flown four additional commercial flights. The latest occurred early last month, but just days later the company announced it was reducing its workforce and suspending commercial flights for 18 months starting next year in an effort to save money while developing larger, more capable aircraft. carrying more passengers into space than current vehicles, which can carry up to six paying passengers at a time.

Before the suspension, Virgin Galactic planned to fly its sixth commercial mission in January, followed by a seventh commercial mission in the second quarter, and possibly an eighth mission in mid-2024. Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said that for the remainder of the flights, Virgin Galactic would carry out the flight. focus on higher income opportunities. That means private passengers could be asked to pay a premium fare of up to $1 million, more than double the current seat price of $450,000.

The new, larger vehicle, called Delta, will be ready in 2026, and Virgin Galactic says it has enough funds to continue operating until then. At that time, Delta planned to begin commercial flights, attracting new revenue in the process.

However, the FT report said that some analysts believe Virgin Galactic will need to seek additional funding from investors in 2025, a year before Delta is ready.

The Virgin Galactic flight experience involves a rocket-powered flight near the Kármán line, an area about 62 miles above Earth that is generally considered to be where space begins. Passengers can enjoy stunning views of the Earth and a few minutes of weightlessness in the cabin before taxiing back for landing on the runway.

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