Virgin Orbit, the small satellite launch service which is a part of billionaire Richard Branson's conglomerate, said on Monday it is going public through a merger with a blank-check vehicle in a deal that values it at $3.2 billion.
The deal with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II also includes a private investment in public equity (PIPE) of $100 million, from parties such as Boeing Co and AE Industrial Partners.
Firefly, U.S.-New Zealand startup Rocket Lab, and Branson's Virgin Orbit are seen as front-runners in a new breed of firms building miniaturized launch systems to cash in on the exponential growth of compact satellites, expected in the coming years.
Blank-check companies, also known as special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), use capital they raise through an initial public offering to merge with a private firm and take it public.
Virgin Orbit, the small satellite launch service which is a part of billionaire Richard Branson's conglomerate, said on Monday it is going public through a merger with a blank-check vehicle in a deal that values it at $3.2 billion
The SPACs are shell companies listed on the stock exchange, which aim to purchase a private company without having to go through the traditional initial public offering process.
Virgin Orbit will list on the Nasdaq, post the closing of the merger, under the ticker symbol "VORB".
Branson's Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic are two different companies, with two different focuses, though they both started off life merged together.
Galactic is working on making it possible to fly people to suborbital space, while Orbit is more focused on transporting small satellite payloads to low Earth orbit.
In action, Virgin Orbit launches its LauncherOne rocket from the wing of a customized 747 aircraft and the 70-foot-long LauncherOne is capable of carrying about 1,100 lbs of payload to orbit.
It comes after Branson's Virgin Galactic said tickets for its space tourism trips to the edge of space will start at $450,000, nearly double what they sold in previous sales.
In a statement announcing the company's second-quarter earnings, the Las Cruces, New Mexico-based company said it would reopen sales for its 2022 commercial flights after having closed them years ago.
There will be three consumer offerings: i) a single seat; ii) a multi-seat couples / friends / family package; and iii) full-flight buy out, the company added.
Several years ago, the company said its price point would be roughly $200,000 per seat, before an accident caused the company to close sales.
Virgin Orbit will list on the Nasdaq, post the closing of the merger, under the ticker symbol "VORB". Pictured: The Virgin Orbit Launcher One rocket in its hanger at Newquay Airport on August 10, 2021
'Sales will initially open to the Company's significant list of early hand-raisers, prioritizing the Spacefarer Community, who, as promised, will be given first opportunity to reserve their place in space,' Virgin Galactic said in the statement.
'A follow-on priority list will be opened to customers interested in reserving future spaceflights.'
In the statement, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said the firm was 'leveraging the surge in consumer interest' after last month's successful flight.
'As we endeavor to bring the wonder of space to a broad global population, we are delighted to open the door to an entirely new industry and consumer experience,' Colglazier added.