Stock Groups

Virgin Orbit stock pops as company shows rocket in Times Square


Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket displayed in Times Square, New York.

CNBC | Michael Sheetz

Richard Branson’sSatellite-launching firm Virgin OrbitOn Friday, a rocket was displayed in New York City as part of the celebrations for going public.

“There is a rocket in Times Square. But there just so happens to be one.” [another]One on an aircraft right now…we’re doing something and I think that’s all that matters,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart stated to CNBC. CNBC interviewed Hart as he answered the Nasdaq open bell Friday.

Virgin Orbit’s stock rose 26% to $6.49/share, compared with its earlier close.

 spin-off of Branson’s space tourism company Virgin GalacticThe company was privately held by conglomerate Virgin Group, with a minority stake from Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala — which together have invested about $1 billion in Virgin Orbit to date. The company merged it with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II, a special-purpose acquisition company.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart, (center, black jacket), stands alongside company executives at Times Square in New York.

CNBC | Michael Sheetz

Through the SPAC process, the company received less money than expected. While Virgin Orbit previously anticipated the merger would generate about $380 million in SPAC proceeds, the company raised just $68 million — expected to be the result of a high rate of shareholders exercising redemptions.

Virgin Orbit also raised additional funds via its Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE), round. The company brought in $160 million through the PIPE — instead of just $100 million — from investors including Boeing, AE Industrial Partners, Virgin Group, and Mubadala. Virgin Orbit’s total gross revenues amounted to $228million.

In May 2020, the company launched its first demonstration.

Greg Robinson | Virgin Orbit

This modified system is being used by the company. Boeing 747 aircraft to launch its rockets, a method known as air launch. Rather than launch rockets from the ground, the company’s aircraft carries its LauncherOne rockets to about 45,000 feet of altitude and drops them just before they fire the engine and accelerate into space – a method the company touts as more flexible than a ground-based system.

Virgin Orbit has joined a number of rocket-builders, who have gone public via SPACs during the past year. Astra Rocket Lab.

I respect anyone who launches a satellite into space. This is not something you can do easily. But … frankly, almost all the companies out there working on it are recreating things that were done in the 1960s,” Hart said. “We’re a launcher that can launch from any place in the world, from any airport — different economics, different reach into customers.”

Air-based launches are not new for delivering satellites into orbit. The Pegasus system was created in the 1990s. Hart called Pegasus “a wonderful idea,” but it was executed at an inappropriate time when smaller satellites were not capable. Hart stated that the rocket was more of curiosity than a business. Hart also stressed that Pegasus used excess intercontinental missiles (ICBMs), and these are expensive.

“A liquid [fuel]Hart stated that rockets are much cheaper to build, particularly with the current manufacturing methods.

Hart explained that Virgin Orbit made $250 million more in gross profits from the SPAC process than they expected. However, Hart stressed that the company’s main focus now is on execution launches. Virgin Orbit plans to launch seven rockets in the coming year. One of them will be launched as soon as Wednesday. Hart indicated that the company plans to build upon this momentum over the coming years.

Hart explained that Hart wants to move beyond 18 launches per year, and then the market will show its performance.