Virgin Orbit to lose space race with Bezos

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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin/New Shephard rocket is scheduled to carry its first space tourist passengers on July 20th. The move means that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will now be a very definite second place in the race to tap into space tourism.

A note to clients from investment bank UBS says that Virgin Galactic is losing its previous position and its first-mover advantage in popular appeal.

“Blue Origin threw down the gauntlet on positioning itself to be (potentially) the first suborbital space tourism company with a paying passenger,” UBS analyst Myles Walton wrote in his note to clients.

However, a test flight from Virgin is likely soon. Virgin Galactic has asked the FCC for permission to use certain radio in-flight frequencies effective May 14th (although until November 14th) and that the transmissions will be used at heights of up to 350,000 ft. Virgin is on record as saying that it wants to carry out three test flights, with one in May. The last of the trio of tests will carry Branson.

The UBS report did no favours for Virgin Galactic’s share price which fell a further 4 percent on an already much-depressed price having tumbled 19 per cent this year. By the end of last week the shares were trading at $19.61. But back in February they were trading at almost $60.

There is no formal secondary market for seat tickets which have already been sold for Virgin Galactic flights. Reportedly some 600 tickets have been sold at prices between $200,000 – $250,000 per passenger.

Bezos is auctioning off one seat on his New Shephard rocket on its July flight.


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