Boeing Stock – Virgin Galactic Launches First Fully Crewed Flight, Sends Richard Branson Into Space| Investor’s Business Daily
Virgin Galactic (SPCE) conducted its first fully crewed flight on Sunday, sending Richard Branson into space. SPCE stock fell Friday.
The flight not only means the company’s billionaire founder beat Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos to space, but it’s also crucial to the start of commercial service.
The Eve mother ship took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Sunday morning, carrying SpaceShipTwo.
After reaching 45,000 feet, Eve released SpaceShipTwo at about 11:25 a.m. ET, allowing the space plane to fire its rocket engines and soar to about 56 miles above the earth. Once there, the crew experienced weightlessness for about a few minutes. By 11:30 a.m., the space plane began its descent, and landed at 11:40 a.m.
Virgin Galactic said that Sunday’s flight would evaluate the customer cabin with a full crew, demonstrate the conditions for conducting human-tended experiments, and confirm the training program at Spaceport America supports spaceflight.
Virgin Galactic has two more flights, including one with the Italian Air Force, to close out its test program. It plans to start commercial service in early 2022.
Once the company can fly space tourists, it can start generating regular revenue and perhaps eventually some profit, aiding SPCE stock. For now, Virgin Galactic has some revenue-generating flights lined up for research missions.
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Blue Origin Shades SPCE Stock
Virgin Galactic shares fell 6.6% to close at 49.20 on the stock market Friday. SPCE stock has jumped more than 9% this week, and its 50-day line is now back above its 200-day line, according to MarketSmith chart analysis. Boeing ((BA)), whose venture capital arm HorizonX has a $20 million minority stake in Virgin Galactic, rose 1.2%. Among other space stocks, launch provider Astra (ASTR) lost 2.
Virgin Galactic has maintained that it’s not in a contest with other commercial space companies and is on its own timeline, with a focus on safety. But the flight does come just over a week before Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon (AMZN), plans to reach space on July 20.
On Friday, Blue Origin tried to downplay Virgin Galactic’s flight, tweeting “From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Karman line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name.”
The Karman line is about 100 km above Earth and is seen by some experts as the boundary between outer space and the upper atmosphere. Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo flights hit around 90 km. However, the U.S. Air Force and NASA define the key boundary at 80 km above Earth.
Blue Origin’s tweet also listed other comparisons that it believes make its space flights on the New Shepard rocket superior.
In addition to Bezos, the July 20 Blue Origin flight will include his brother as well as “Mercury 13” pilot Wally Funk, who was trained in the early days of the U.S. space program. A mystery auction winner who paid $28 million for a ticket will also join the crew.
FAA Prepares For More Launches
With Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin taking major steps toward commercial service, the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing for increased launches by commercial providers.
On Thursday, the regulator announced that it activated a system to track space launches and re-entries.
“This is a critical tool as the number of users of our already busy airspace increases,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “With this capability, we will be able to safely reopen the airspace more quickly and reduce the number of aircraft and other airspace users affected by a launch or reentry.”
Last year, the FAA said it managed 45 space launches, but the regulator said it could break that record this year with more than 70 launches expected.
Follow Gillian Rich on Twitter for space news and more.
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