Virgin Galactic to be first space tourism stock to join New York Stock Exchange

The company will trade under the ticker symbol SPCE.
VSS Unity, first glide flight
Virgin Spaceship Unity glides for the first time after being released from Virgin Mothership Eve over the Mojave Desert on Dec. 3, 2016.Virgin Galactic

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By Michael Sheetz, CNBC

Private space tourism is about to go public.

Shareholders approved Virgin Galactic’s merger with the Social Capital Hedosophia venture capital fund on Wednesday, according to SEC filings, setting up the space tourism company to list directly on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

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Virgin Galactic will become the first human spaceflight company to trade on public markets.

The merger was announced in July, with Social Capital Hedosophia — run by noted tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya — taking a 49 percent stake in Virgin Galactic. The merger gives the combined company a valuation of $1.5 billion, with Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson retaining a 51 percent controlling stake.

Palihapitiya's VC firm already trades on the NYSE, under the ticker IPOA. The filing said the company expects the merger with Virgin to close on Friday. After the closing, the shares will trade under the ticker symbol SPCE at the NYSE on Monday.

Branson hinted to CNBC in an interview last week that Virgin Galactic’s public debut was coming soon. “It’s not long now,” he said during the company’s unveiling of its spacewear collection with Under Armour.

Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft can carry six passengers and two pilots to the edge of space. The spaceship is dropped from a jet-powered aircraft and fires a rocket motor, reaching over three times the speed of sound as it climbs though Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft and its passengers then float weightless for a few minutes, before gliding back down to land on Earth much like a traditional aircraft.

A ticket for a Virgin Galactic flight goes for about $250,000 per person, and the company has a list of 603 customers waiting to fly.