Shares of Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE) blasted off this morning as investors reacted to the scheduling of the space tourism company’s next test flight. SPCE stock is up more than 23% in pre-market trading at 8:15 a.m. Eastern.
Virgin Galactic confirmed that the next test flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity will be conducted on May 22, subject to weather and technical checks. This follows the completion of a maintenance review of VMS Eve, the mothership jet aircraft designed to carry SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet.
“Following a detailed inspection and thorough analysis of our mothership, Eve, we have cleared our Spaceflight System for our upcoming flight. I want to thank our incredibly talented team of engineers, maintenance crew, quality inspectors and support staff for their diligence and hard work, which is testament to our commitment to safety and the integrity of our flight test program,” said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic.
SPCE stock came to market last October in a tie-up with blank check company Social Capital Hedosophia, which raised more than $650 million in 2017 and began trading under the ticker IPOA. Founded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in 2004, the vertically integrated company operates both a customer-facing “spaceline” business and an aerospace manufacturer.
Billionaire Space Rivalry Fuels SPCE Stock
The upcoming VSS Unity test flight will be crewed by two pilots and will carry research payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities program.
Yet, Branson’s long-held dream of creating a space tourism company has competition from fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, which last month announced it would soon begin to sell tickets for rides on its own rocket called New Shepard. Virgin Galactic ships fit six people. Same with Blue Origin ships. And Virgin only has two ships today, while Blue Origin has one.
To be sure, suborbital space tourism will be very expensive. But for those who can afford it, the rocket rides offer a chance to do something only a handful of people have ever done before in the history of humankind.
InvestorPlace analyst Luke Lango last month featured SPCE stock in his Hypergrowth Investing column, advising readers to buy the shares on dips. Calling it “one of the best long-term investment opportunities in the market today,” he wrote that the shares are worth $50.
On the date of publication, Robert Lakin did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
InvestorPlace contributor Robert Lakin is a veteran financial writer and editor, including previous stints with Bloomberg News and as a buyside equity research editor.