Blue Origin Plans Suborbital Flight Later This Week

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has posted a temporary flight restriction (TFR) for a New Shepard suborbital flight from its test facility in west Texas for later this week. The TFR is in place starting Wednesday, April 14 at 1200 UTC (8 a.m. EDT/7a.m. CDT) until Saturday April 17 at 2000 UTC (4 p.m. EDT/3 p.m. CDT).

It would be the 15th flight of a New Shepard spacecraft and the second flight of New Shepard No. 4, which is designed to carry passengers. The most recent flight without people on board occurred on Jan. 14.

Blue Origin has not yet formally announced the flight. It is likely to be another uncrewed launch carrying scientific experiments.

Russian Space Tourism Company Closes Doors

The Moscow Times reports that a Russian space tourism company is ceasing operations without having flown any tourists.

Kosmokurs’ operations will cease due to “insurmountable difficulties” in coordinating with local authorities on the cosmodrome project as well as the company’s “inability to obtain needed regulatory documents from the Defense Ministry” for the design of a suborbital tourist rocket, its CEO Pavel Pushkin told RIA Novosti

Pushkin founded the private space corporation in 2014 after being inspired by the early success of companies like SpaceX, founded by U.S. billionaire Elon Musk, and Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos in 2017 had approved Kosmokurs’ ambitious plan to send tourists to space by 2025. Roscosmos is now looking into hiring Kosmokurs’ 50 or so employees, RIA Novosti reported.

SPACovirus Sweeps Space Sector

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)
Wall Street’s latest easy money craze has attracted a growing number of space companies. But, just because they can go public, should they?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Seven space companies have gotten caught up in the SPACovirus sweeping through Wall Street. The impact on the space industry is going to be interesting to watch.

A SPAC is a special purpose acquisition company. It’s a publicly traded investment firm that, with outside investors, acquires or merges with another company, and then takes the acquisition public under its own name.

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Branson Wants to Take Virgin Orbit Public Through SPAC

Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 takes off from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

First Virgin Galactic. Now Virgin Orbit.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Richard Branson has hired Credit Suisse Group AG and LionTree LLC to take Virgin Orbit public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) at a valuation of up to $3 billion.

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Wall Street Thinks Most SPACs are a Joke

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange after merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). (Credit Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Over at Fast Company, William D. Cohan says professional investors and financial analysts have a low opinion of the special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), which are being used by Virgin Galactic and six other space companies to go public. (SPACs are an inside joke on Wall Street, and the joke is on you)

SPACs are investment vehicles that are already publicly traded on the stock exchange. Their goal is to acquire or merge with other companies, which then go public under their own names.

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Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya Sells Entire Personal Stake Worth $213 Million

Chamath Palihapitiya (Credit: SCH)
  • Move follows Palihapitiya’s sale of shares worth nearly $98 million in December
  • Virgin Galactic shares continued weeks-long decline after news broke
  • Palihapitiya indirectly owns a large stake through Social Capital Hedosophia

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya has sold 6.2 million personal shares in the suborbital space tourism company worth about $213 million. The sale zeros out his personal stake in Virgin Galactic.

The move follows Palihapitiya’s sale of 3.8 million shares worth $97.8 million in December. The nearly $311 million gain is more than triple the $100 million he personally invested in Virgin Galactic when it went public 16 months ago.

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Virgin Galactic Stock Plunges as Company Delays Space Tourism Flights to 2022

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity arrives at Spaceport America aboard WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Shares of Virgin Galactic plunged sharply on Thursday as the company announced that it was postponing the start of commercial suborbital space tourism flights until 2022 due to additional delays in completing SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity‘s test program.

Shares plunged in after hours trading to $36.69 after opening the day at $45.04. Most of the decline occurred in after hours trading following the release of Virgin Galactic quarterly and full year 2020 earning report.

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Virgin Galactic Replaces CFO

The engine continued to fire for 60 seconds. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

LAS CRUCES, NM (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, today announced the appointment of Doug Ahrens as its new Chief Financial Officer, effective March 1, 2021. Ahrens will succeed Jon Campagna, who is stepping down as Chief Financial Officer following Virgin Galactic’s successful transition from private to public company.

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Virgin Galactic Announces Engineering & Aerospace Hires Ahead of Quarterly Earnings Call

SpaceShipTwo Unity on its second glide flight over Spaceport America. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LAS CRUCES, NM (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, today announced the appointments of Swami Iyer as its President of Aerospace Systems and Stephen Justice as its Vice President of Engineering.

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In Lieu of Spaceflight, Virgin Galactic Presents….

SpaceShipTwo fires its engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Monday marked the second anniversary of Virgin Galactic’s most recent flight above 50 miles, the altitude the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) judges to be the boundary of space.

In the days leading up to the anniversary, I kept thinking Virgin Galactic will announce something on Monday. Some bit of news to distract people from 24 months without a spaceflight. Something to show forward progress ahead of what is likely to be yet another quarterly earnings call on Thursday soaked in red ink.

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Why Virgin Galactic Went SPAC

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the SmallSat Symposium last week, Richard Branson was asked why Virgin Galactic had gone public using a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

“I’m impatient. The SPAC gets through all of the rigmarole of public companies. Yes, I thought, that’s great, let’s do it,” he replied.

Branson was half right. A SPAC makes it a lot easier for a company to go public. But, impatience was probably not the main reason Virgin Galactic went SPAC.

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Virgin Galactic Postpones Suborbital Flight Test

Virgin Galactic had planned to fly from Spaceport America in New Mexico as early as Saturday. The company has said there are open dates for the rest of February.

The suborbital flight will include two pilots and a load of microgravity experiments in the passenger cabin. It will be a repeat of a flight that was aborted in December after VSS Unity‘s computer lost contact with the ship’s hybrid engine.

The upcoming flight will be the first of three final suborbital tests of the rocket plane before Virgin Galactic begins flying paying passengers. The company said it might add more flight tests if necessary.

2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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OneSpace Successfully Launches Suborbital Rocket

The OS-X6B suborbital rocket launches on Feb. 5, 2021. (Credit: OneSpace)

At 17:05:05 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2021, OneSpace’s new intelligent suborbital rocket OS-X6B and “Chongqing Liangjiang Star” was launched from a northwest launch site under the remote command of the company’s Chongqing Liangjiang Measurement and Control Command Center. 

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