Virgin Galactic Holdings, the space tourism firm founded by Richard Branson, said on Thursday its long-awaited commercial spaceflight service would launch later this month, sending its shares up over 55% in trading after the bell.
The first spaceflight, called “Galactic 01”, is planned between June 27 and June 30, the company said.
“Galactic 02” will follow in early August, with monthly spaceflights expected thereafter, the company said.
Shares of Virgin Galactic had lost over two-thirds of their value last year due to delays in the company’s launch of commercial service. Shares were up at $6.30 in aftermarket trading on Thursday.
The company had suspended flights of the spaceplane VSS Unity and its carrier plane in 2021 to make various spacecraft enhancements, delaying its debut customer mission to the edge of space.
But in February, it said it had completed a lengthy upgrade period for its centerpiece tourist spacecraft, clearing the path for its first commercial spaceflight. Shares of the company have risen about 16% so far in 2023.
The first commercial mission will carry three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy to conduct microgravity research, Virgin Galactic said.
(Reporting by Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Pooja Desai and Krishna Chandra Eluri)