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Virgin Galactic shares blast off after Richard Branson announces spaceflight plans

July 2, 2021, 3:06 PM UTC

Richard Branson’s one-upsmanship in the billionaire space race is making him a richer man.

Shares of Virgin Galactic soared as much as 25% in premarket trading Friday morning, following Thursday’s news that the company’s founder would beat Jeff Bezos to the edge of space. After a slight pullback, shares were trading up 12% as of 10:30 a.m. ET.

Branson will take flight on July 11, joining two pilots and three Virgin Galactic employees, including Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, on the VSS Unity, taking off from the company’s Spaceport America in New Mexico. Bezos is scheduled to be a passenger on his company Blue Origin’s spaceflight on July 20.

The two billionaires have been jockeying to be the first to get to space for a while now. And waiting in the wings is Elon Musk, whose SpaceX is scheduled to launch an orbital test flight later this month. (Musk is not expected to be on board.)

Branson’s flight will be a milestone for the company, which suspended ticket sales after a 2014 crash killed a test pilot. Virgin plans to resume sales after it completes two test flights this summer. Branson will be on the first of those. The company plans to begin its regular commercial service next year.

Virgin Galactic is also a favorite stock of Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets community, and chatter about it was naturally the topic of the day on the forum.

“This stock is going to fly for real,” wrote user SorryLifeguard7.

Shares of the company have more than doubled year to date.

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