Virgin Galactic: High Losses, Minimal Revenues & A lot of “Registrations of Interest”

A view from inside the cockpit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s now publicly traded Virgin Galactic space tourism company had its first quarterly and full year earnings call on Tuesday. You can read the press release here. Below are the key takeaways.

Burning cash: Net losses were nearly $72.8 million for the fourth quarter and $210.9 million for 2019. Net losses for 2018 and 2019 totaled $349.1 million. Total expenditures since 2004 have exceeded $1 billion.

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Virgin Galactic Starts Taking Flight Deposits Again

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fly right overhead. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Editor’s Note: They kind of buried the lede here. Read down to paragraph 4 of 7. Virgin also closed ticket sales after VSS Enterprise crashed in October 2014, at which time it had more 700 firm reservations. But, notice the legalistic clarification: formally closed.

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, announced today that in preparation for the re-opening of spaceflight sales, it is introducing the One Small Step initiative. The company formally closed its doors to new ticket sales after its history-making first space flight in December 2018.

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Video: CNBC Experts Talk Virgin Galactic, Space Stocks

Video Caption: Andrew Chanin, the CEO of ProcureAM, talks his firm’s Procure Space ETF (UFO) as its top holding skyrockets. With CNBC’s Bob Pisani, ETF Trends’ Tom Lydon and Astoria Portfolio Advisors’ John Davi.

Virgin Galactic’s rally began two months ago but trading in the speculative space company has recently accelerated in a way that tops even the momentum behind Tesla.

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Video: Jim Cramer Breaks Down Virgin Galactic’s Soaring Stock

Video Caption: Investors owning surging speculative stocks should take some off the table and protect profits, “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer says.

Virgin Galactic shares swung back-and-forth in heavy trading Thursday, with the stock giving dropping midday after climbing earlier.

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Video: Virgin Galactic Shares Soar

Video Caption: CNBC’s space reporter Michael Sheetz and FinTech reporter Kate Rooney break down why Virgin Galactic’s stock has taken off with the “Power Lunch” team.

Virgin Galactic’s rally began two months ago but trading in the speculative space company has recently accelerated in a way that tops even the momentum behind Tesla.

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Virgin Galactic Stock Soars

Virgin Galactic’s stock hit an all-time high on Friday at $29.29 in after hours trading. The stock soared by $5.63 the day the company flew SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity from its test site in Mojave, Calif. to its operating base at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Not bad for a stock that was offered at $12 when it opened on the New York Stock Exchange last Oct. 28.

Stock prices are often based on future expectations. That’s certainly true of Virgin Galactic. The company has spent more than $1 billion over the past 15.5 years developing a suborbital space tourism vehicle that has never carried a single paying passenger. Virgin Galactic has never had an annual profit.

VSS Unity has flown two suborbital flights above 50 miles (80.4 km) since it was rolled out four years ago. The last flight was nearly one year ago. So, there hasn’t been any actual action in the sky — except for a ferry flight to New Mexico on Friday — to drive up the stock price.

Months of additional flight testing is set to take place before SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity conducts its first commercial flight with passengers. Virgin Chairman Richard Branson will be aboard that flight, which could take place before or on his 70th birthday on July 18.

Virgin says it’s got 603 passengers signed up for flights. It plans to begin selling tickets once commercial service begins at a cost higher than the current $250,000 price. The company says thousands of people have expressed interest in signing up.

Spaceport America Welcomes SpaceShipTwo Unity to New Mexico

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NM (NMSA PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc., a vertically integrated aerospace company, has successfully completed another vital step on its path to commercial service, relocating SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, to its commercial headquarters at Spaceport America’s Gateway to Space building.

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SpaceShipTwo Unity Moved to New Mexico

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

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NM, February 13, 2020 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, has successfully completed another vital step on its path to commercial service, relocating SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, to its commercial headquarters at Spaceport America’s Gateway to Space building.

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2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The clock struck midnight on Jan. 1 amid raucous celebrations around the world. The arrival of a new year and decade merely confirmed what had been clear for months: 2019 was not the breakthrough year for getting humans off the planet.

Neither Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin followed through on long-standing promises to fly paying passengers on suborbital joyrides. An era of commercial space tourism that seemed so close that October day in 2004 when Brian Binnie guided SpaceShipOne to a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port quietly slipped into yet another year.

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A Case for Durational Research: Space Plants Co-Investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul

Robert Ferl_and Anna-Lisa Paul (Credit: NASA)

NASA Flight Opportunities Program Q&A

University of Florida-Gainesville co-investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul are no strangers to suborbital research. They’ve been conducting plant research in microgravity since the late 1990s—first on the Space Shuttle and then on the International Space Station (ISS) and parabolic flights, many of which have been facilitated by Flight Opportunities.

More recently, the pair have begun flying their “space plants” (Arabidopsis thaliana) on rockets, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. We spoke with Ferl and Paul about how they have approached their long-duration research to lead to successful, iterative investigations on multiple flights. 

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Spaceport America Seeking Additional $92.6 Million for Improvements

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor/Publisher

It’s budget season again in Sante Fe. As usual, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) is seeking money for additional upgrades to Spaceport America.

The Albuquerque Journal has a story outlining a series of requests totaling nearly $93 million. I have helpfully summarized the information in the table below.

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2019: A Busy Year in Suborbital Flight

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last year was a busy one for suborbital flights as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted a combined four flights of their crewed suborbital vehicles. Despite hopes to the contrary, neither company flew paying tourists on their spaceships.

There were also 26 sounding rocket launches that carried scientific experiments and technology payloads above the atmosphere. The year saw:

  • Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies conduct a successful launch of its Momo commercial sounding rocket;
  • Texas-based Exos Aerospace continue to struggle with its reusable SARGE booster; and,
  • the first suborbital launch ever achieved by college students.
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Virgin Galactic Appoints Enrico Palermo as COO

Enrico Palermo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif., January 15, 2020 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“VG” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, is pleased to announce the appointment of Enrico Palermo as Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective immediately. In this newly created role, Enrico will be responsible for helping maintain efficiency and peak performance across the enterprise as it develops as a public company, and will lead the execution of specific company strategies and initiatives.

Enrico currently serves as President of The Spaceship Company (TSC), the wholly-owned aerospace manufacturing and development subsidiary of VG. In this role, Enrico leads over 500 employees at the company’s facilities in Mojave, California. He joined Virgin Galactic in 2006 as one of its first employees. Enrico will maintain his capacity of TSC President.

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Virgin Galactic Announces Date for Fourth Quarter, Full Year Financial Results

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR)–Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“VG” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, today announced that it will report its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2019 following the close of the U.S. markets on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. VG will host a conference call to discuss the results that day at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time (5:00 p.m. Eastern Time).

A live webcast and replay of the conference call will be available on the Company’s Investor Relations website at investors.virgingalactic.com.

About Virgin Galactic Holdings

Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. is a vertically-integrated aerospace company pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers. It believes the commercial exploration of space represents one of the most exciting and significant technology initiatives of our time. It is embarking on this commercial exploration journey with a mission to put humans into space and return them safely to earth on a routine, consistent and affordable basis. Using its proprietary and reusable technologies, and supported by a distinctive, Virgin-branded customer experience, it is developing a spaceflight system designed to offer customers a unique, multi-day experience culminating in a spaceflight that includes several minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth from space. It is in the final stages of development, having already completed multiple crewed flights of its vehicle into space, and anticipates initial commercial launch in 2020.

Collaboratory Formed to Promote New Mexico’s Spaceport America During Closed Door Meeting

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Officials from New Mexico, the federal government and Virgin Galactic met last week behind closed doors for the state’s first Space Valley Summit to form a “collaboratory” to promote Spaceport America and the state’s aerospace economy.

The one group not invited: taxpayers who have forked over about $250 million to build the spaceport where Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant. As the Las Cruces Sun News dryly noted

Minutes after [Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham] exhorted the summit to “make sure every New Mexican … knows exactly what is happening here,” all reporters were asked to leave. 

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