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Richard Branson launches spaceship programme

British billionaire Richard Branson plans to make his company Virgin Galactic the first space tourism firm to go public, Branson said in a statement on Tuesday.

Virgin Galactic and its sister manufacturing organisation, The Spaceship Company, took steps towards becoming the first publicly listed human spaceflight company, German news agency DPA reported on Tuesday.

Before public trading can begin, Virgin Galactic must complete a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), an investment vehicle led by former Facebook manager Chamath Palihapitiya.

SCH will then hold 49 percent of the company, which is valued at about US$1.5 billion.

Palihapitiya told broadcaster CNBC on Tuesday that Virgin Galactic is projected to become profitable on an annual basis by 2021, and that the company is on track to fly its first customers within a year.

Virgin Galactic faces fierce competition from rivals, including Blue Origin, run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Tesla chief Elon Musk’s SpaceX, said the DPA report.

Source: WAM

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