Launch

Virgin Galactic stock soars because it wants to vacation-ify space travel

Tuesday, June 23, 2020 by Robinhood Snacks |
_When the "space tourists" arrive wearing sun hats_

When the "space tourists" arrive wearing sun hats

When the re-scheduled cruise gets canceled again... Better luck just leaving earth. Virgin Galactic stock popped 16% on a fun headline: the Richard Branson-owned space tourism startup wants to hotel-ify the International Space Station (in partnership with NASA, of course).

  • The Mission: NASA wants Virgin to coordinate private trips to the ISS. That includes building out an "orbital astronaut readiness program” for companies/orgs that want to send their people to space (for whatever reason).
  • The Logistics: Virgin would basically act as a space travel agency, coordinating resources, logistics, and travel plans for customers.
  • The Hospitality: Virgin wants to offer "a variety of personalized space experiences" for its clientele. Think: ISS restaurant bookings and day excursions like star-skiing (kidding, but almost).

Expanding the galactic biz model... Virgin has historically been focused on suborbital spaceflight. It sells $250K tickets to send people to the edge of space (and back) on its spaceplane — but even that hasn't taken off commercially yet (only 5 people have gone for test flights). NASA will review the plan Virgin puts together to see if it's solid, before going ahead with this new venture.

THE TAKEAWAY

NASA wants to commercialize space... and it needs private sector companies to do it. NASA's on a private hot streak: it recently completed a big launch with SpaceX, successfully sending astronauts into orbit with a private spacecraft for the first time ever. Now it wants Virgin's help getting tourists to the ISS.

  • NASA's Goal: "Facilitate the commercialization of low-Earth orbit by US entities.” With NASA's support, companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and even Boeing can get a slice of the commercial space pie.
  • One day, space tourism could be a major market — and a major money maker for the companies that pioneered it.