SIERRA COUNTY, N.M. - Virgin Galactic (VG) and Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH) have announced that the companies are merging, with SCH owing 49% of shares in the combined company. Upon closing of the transaction, which is expected in the second half of 2019, VG will be introduced as the first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company.
VG is a vertically integrated aerospace company specializing in commercial human spaceflight. Using proven and reusable technology, it intends to offer its customers a unique, multi-day experience culminating in a personal spaceflight that includes out-of-seat zero gravity and views of Planet Earth from space.
VG believes it has now reached an inflection point in its development as it progresses towards launching commercial operations. In particular, by demonstrating the repeatability of the full flight profile through the completion of two crewed spaceflights, VG believes it has overcome a substantial number of the technical hurdles required to make the company a viable and profitable commercial service.
VSS Unity, VG's spaceship, was the first and remains the only vehicle built for regular commercial service to have put humans into space. VG's inaugural spaceflight in December 2018 was also the first and only human space launch from U.S. soil since 2011. During its second spaceflight in February 2019, VSS Unity became the first vehicle built for commercial service to carry pilots as well as crew.
Having reached these milestones, the Board of VG believes that the additional capital provided by the merger with SCH will provide the company with the support needed to reach commercialization.
In addition to the more than $1 billion that has been invested in VG since its inception in 2004, VG believes its position within the emerging commercial human spaceflight market is reinforced by other significant barriers to entry for potential competitors. These include the vertically integrated technical and operational expertise built over 15 years, an established and highly experienced workforce and the strength of the Virgin Group's brand recognition. VG has built a unique, pre-commercial service order book of more than 600 space tourism customers backed by over $80 million in deposits. In a transforming world of experiences and social media, VG believes that the market for exclusive, experiential products will continue to expand quickly and represents a significant opportunity for future growth.
As part of its commercial operations, VG has exclusive access to the principal assets at Spaceport America, New Mexico. Spaceport America is the world's first, purpose built commercial spaceport. As announced on May 10, 2019, VG is moving more than 100 spaceline staff and its space vehicles to Spaceport America, which will become the new location of its operational headquarters. Spaceport America will be the site of VG's initial commercial spaceflights and where the company will deliver a high-end, exclusive customer experience over the multi-day pre-flight period.
As part of this transaction, the existing management team of VG will remain in place following the close of the transaction with George T. Whitesides remaining as CEO, while a new Board, comprised of seven directors, will be augmented by the addition of Chamath Palihapitiya, as Chairman, and Adam Bain, both of whom are committed to the success of VG.