Branson’s satellite launcher Virgin Orbit to go public

Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson

Richard Branson’s satellite launch company Virgin Orbit is going public in a $3.2 billion deal to raise funds for further growth. 

The listing on the Nasdaq will be achieved via a merger with special purpose acquisition vehicle NextGen Acquisition Corp II, Virgin Orbit announced on August 23, 2021. 

Virgin Orbit launches payloads into space using Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747-400 from Branson’s airline Virgin Atlantic. Its last launch on June 30, 2021, carried payloads for customers including the Department of Defense and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Using the 747 means it does not need ground infrastructure for launches, offering more choice to countries which have space agencies and satellite programs but no domestic launch capabilities. Virgin Orbit also says it reduces noise and carbon emissions, compared to ground launches.  

“The Virgin Orbit team has proven its ability to create new ideas, new approaches, and new capabilities,” Branson commented.  “They are building on the incredible foundation of their rapid transition into successful commercial launch operations to find new ways to solve big problems that uplift our customers’ amazing ideas, again and again.” 

The transaction, expected to close in the final three months of 2021, is set to bring cash proceeds of up to $483 million to the combined companies. That comprises $383 million from the merger with the NextGen vehicle, plus $100 million from a common stock private investment in public equity (PIPE) offering, which will see Boeing and AE Industrial Partners invest in Virgin Orbit. 

Virgin Orbit said it will use proceeds from the transaction to scale rocket manufacturing to meet demand, as well as fund growth in its space solutions business. 

“The space economy is developing rapidly and Virgin Orbit is well positioned to benefit through its ability to competitively launch at any time, from any place on Earth, to any orbit and inclination,” NextGen co-founders George Mattson and Greg Summe said.

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