SIR Richard Branson’s successful maiden voyage to the boundary of outer space has lifted the value of his space tourism enterprise by more than $800million.
Shares in Virgin Galactic Holdings jumped as much as 22% in premarket trading on Wall Street, surpassing an all-time peak reached in February.
The boost added around $841 million to the market value of the firm based in Las Cruces, New Mexico
The stock has rocketed by 217% in the past two months and is up more than double year-on-year.
Branson, the 70-year-old billionaire, and five employees completed the long-awaited test flight aboard the company’s VSS Unity spaceplane last night, reaching an altitude of more than 50 miles above the desert during the hour-long journey before gliding back to Earth.
The success of the mission bolsters the company’s plan to debut tourism trips next year.
Tourists will pay $250,000 US dollars (£180,000) for a spaceflight on Virgin Galactic, which includes four minutes of zero gravity.
“Welcome to the dawn of a new space age,” Branson told guests at the Spaceport America complex after touching down.
Branson’s test flight came nine days ahead of Jeff Bezos’s first flight aboard a rocket from his private space company, Blue Origin.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is also planning a number of SpaceX missions, taking passengers on longer trips, with the first scheduled for September.
Meanwhile back on UK soil, the booming space industry is no longer just the preserve of billionaires after investors seized on a chance to explore a new frontier.
Seraphim Space Investment Trust today said that a £180 million fundraising had been oversubscribed amid support from both City institutions and retail investors.
It plans to acquire stakes in four space tech businesses before the end of this year as it looks to back the next generation of space entrepreneurs.
The fundraising and Wednesday’s start of unconditional trading on London’s main market couldn’t be better timed after Branson’s trip to the edge of space on board a Virgin Galactic rocket plane yesterday brought space tourism a step closer.
Will Whitehorn used to be president of Virgin Galactic and is now chairman at Seraphim. He said the fund’s London listing would give investors unparalleled early access to companies that will shape a “new economic revolution”.
The old economy, meanwhile, continues to struggle as further jitters over the global economic rebound and spread of the Delta variant left the FTSE 100 index 41.25 points lower at 7081.03.
The latest sell-off was led by British Airways owner IAG and Rolls-Royce as the pair fell 4.7p to 180.2p and 2.6p to 98.4p respectively. Cyclical sectors including mining and banking were also under pressure after Anglo American gave up 62p to 2,929p and Barclays fell 3.4p to 169.9p.
The domestic-focused FTSE 250 fell 63.14 points to 22846.52.
Trustpilot shares were 2.2p higher at 336.8p after the business review website reported half-year revenues 31% up. The deal-making by Tate & Lyle and a broker upgrade for online electrical appliance business AO World sent shares in both 2% higher.