Virgin Orbit targets $3bn IPO

Photo: AP Richard Branson

Virgin Orbit, which is the satellite launcher of Virgin Galactic hopes to complete an IPO which will value the company at $3bn, CNBC reported. Virgin Orbit is part of the conglomerate of UK billionaire Richard Branson focused on space travel and satellite management. Virgin Orbit is a subsidiary of Virgin Galactic which is in advanced discussions to about the IPO through a SPAC.

The company is in talks on a deal with NextGen Acquisition II. NextGen II is a special purpose acquisition company co-led by George Mattson, who previously co-led Goldman’s global industrials group. Sky News first reported the talks, saying a deal is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Virgin Orbit is privately held by Branson’s multinational conglomerate Virgin Group, with a minority stake from Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala. Virgin Orbit uses a modified Boeing 747 aircraft to launch its rockets, a method known as air launch. Rather than launch rockets from the ground, like competitors such as Rocket Lab or Astra, the company’s aircraft carries its LauncherOne rockets up to about 15,000 metres 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.

LauncherOne is designed to carry small satellites that weigh up to 500 kilograms, or about 1,100 pounds, into space. Virgin Orbit completed its first successful launch in January, and plans to conduct its second later this month.

Next Gen II raised $350 million when it completed its initial public offering in March, as well as an additional $33 million in April, for a total of $383 million. The funds would largely go to help Virgin Orbit expand its business. Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said that the company was seeking to raise about $150 million in fresh capital. Branson took Virgin Galactic public through a SPAC deal in 2019 with billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya.

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