Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. has set June 29 as the target date for its highly anticipated first commercial flight. The company’s stock climbed 6.7% in premarket trades following the announcement.
The mission, named Galactic 01, will carry three crew members from Italy’s air force and the National Research Council of Italy who will conduct research on microgravity. The spacecraft, VSS Unity, will be commanded by retired U.S Air Force Lt. Col Mike Massuci, who will be making his fourth spaceflight, and its pilot will be former Italian Air Force Lt. Col Nicola Pecile.
Referred to as “Virtute 1,” or “Virtue 1” by the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy, the mission will conduct 13 human-tended and autonomous experiments on biomedicine, thermo-fluid dynamics, and the development of innovative and sustainable materials in microgravity.
Virgin Galactic’s lead astronaut instructor, Colin Bennett, will accompany the crew on their scientific research mission.
Investors are eagerly awaiting this historical moment in space travel as Virgin Galactic continues to push boundaries in private spaceflight exploration.
Virgin Galactic Looks to Raise $400 Million for Spaceship Fleet
Shares of Virgin Galactic plummeted 18.4% on Friday, following the company’s announcement that it will seek to raise $400 million to develop its spaceship fleet, expand its infrastructure and scale commercial operations. The “space-tourism” firm is planning to launch its second commercial flight, Galactic 02, in early August, followed by monthly flights. Last month it completed its fifth Unity 25 spaceflight — the first crewed mission in nearly two years.
Despite the planned expansion, Virgin Galactic reported a larger-than-expected loss in its most recent quarter, causing investor concerns. Additionally, Branson’s satellite-launch firm, Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
While shares of Virgin Galactic dropped 34.6% over the last 12 months, they’re up 24.7% this year. According to surveys conducted by FactSet, of 13 analysts two have issued a buy rating, six suggest holding and five have designated the stock as underweight or a sell.