Virgin Galactic is merging with public investment firm Social Capital Hedosophia to form the first publicly traded commercial space tourism company.
Shareholders in Virgin Galactic, in Mojave, will retain a 51 percent ownership of the company, while those in Social Capital Hedosophia, in Palo Alto, will hold the remaining ownership.
Social Capital will invest about $800 million into Virgin Galactic, including $100 million from its chief executive and founder, Chamath Palihapitiya. Palihapitiya and Adam Bain, lead independent director, will join the Virgin board of directors.
Virgin Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides said the transaction was the next step in the company’s journey.
“We believe it will offer us the financial flexibility to build a thriving commercial service and invest appropriately for the future,” Whitesides said in a statement.
Virgin Galactic will take paying passengers up in the six-seat Unity spacecraft for a sub-orbital flight that will include a period of weightlessness. The company will complete flight tests at the Spaceport America facility in New Mexico before commencing a full commercial service for passengers and research payloads.
The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.