Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic (SPCE) unveiled its SpaceShip III spaceplane with an ambitious timeline Tuesday, while its SpaceShipTwo vehicle has yet to begin commercial service. Virgin Galactic stock reversed higher.
The company has plans for four glide test flights and four powered flights of its VSS Imagine while it builds the VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle. During the fourth-quarter earnings report, Virgin Galactic said it expects to complete flight testing in early 2022.
SpaceShip III will be made from a “mirror-like material” that during spaceflight will be “constantly changing color and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space,” according to Virgin Galactic.
But it’s not the shiny finish that makes SpaceShip III unique. The space plane will be built using a “modular design” to make it easier for ground crews to perform maintenance and get the vehicle ready for the next launch. The company said the design will “lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.”
Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has yet to start commercial service for its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. The latest timeline for the first commercial flight is about a year later than the initial forecast, which was for Q1 2021.
Virgin Galactic Stock
Shares rallied 2.8% to 30.04 on the stock market today after slipping earlier. Boeing (BA), whose venture capital arm HorizonX has a $20 million minority stake in Virgin Galactic, rose 0.2% to 251.04.
Virgin Galactic stock is one of the holdings in the new ARK Space Exploration & Innovation ETF (ARKX), which is led by Cathie Wood and began trading Tuesday. Other space-related stocks in the new fund’s 39 holdings include Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN), which both stand to benefit from space exploration.
Investors interested in space companies also have an increasing array of options beyond Virgin Galactic stock, often via a special purpose acquisition company.
Momentus plans to go public this year through a merger with Stable Road Acquisition Corp.
Follow Gillian Rich on Twitter for space news and more.
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