Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. received regulatory approval to fly customers into space, moving the budding industry founded by billionaires one step closer to reality. The shares surged almost 40%, the most significant one-day jump ever.
The Federal Aviation Administration upgraded its existing license to cover customer flights, Virgin Galactic said Friday in a statement, saying the approval was the first of its kind. The company also confirmed that a May 22 test flight performed well against objectives.
The approval marks another milestone for an industry that not long ago was the stuff of science fiction. Virgin Galactic, founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has been working toward its goal since 2004. Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos plans his first trip in July after auctioning a passenger seat for $28 million.
Virgin Galactic soared 39% to close at $55.91. The stock is up about 136% this year.
Data from the May test flight, Virgin Galactic’s first rocket burn in two years, confirmed that upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls on the VSS Unity performed in line with predictions, Virgin Galactic said.
The suborbital, rocket-powered craft is carried from takeoff by a larger ship called VMS Eve, then released. In the May flight, it achieved Mach 3 and reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles.
The company said it would continue preparing for three remaining test flights.
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