Virgin Galactic has $ 20 million more to pursue the goal of space tourism with a new investment from Boeing announced this morning. The two companies are both deeply involved in human aerospace, but in different ways – and Boeing seems to feel it's better to join Virgin than trying to beat them in this game.
VG is well on its way to the goal of being the first company to offer "routine, consistent and affordable" space tourism, although the last item is obviously relative. The spacecraft has already been in space with people inside, and essentially taken the same trip as that planned for paying passengers ̵
The money came through Boeing's HorizonX Ventures, which previously invested in some smaller aviation startups, such as Accion Systems and Matternet. The team there seems to prefer to give little cash injections here and there instead of supporting a major player with a significant Series A or similar.
Little context is provided for the investment; Quotes in a press release are more empty than usual, and speak only of the bright, vague future of human space. Why $ 20 million? Why now?
The investment will be contingent upon new shares being issued in the new listed company formed through a recently announced merger with Chamath Palihapitiya & # 39; s Social Capital Hedosophia. It is expected to continue in Q4 this year.
Perhaps ahead of that event, and with Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson having walked away from a billion dollars offered by Saudi Arabia (in response to the Khashoggi killing), the company decided it could use a little more relative unstructured cash.
No special partnerships or technologies are mentioned, simply that it is an "important collaboration", in Branson's words. CEO George Whitesides said he is "excited to partner with Boeing to build something that can really change how people move around the planet." "Something" that moves people around the planet? What else would both companies build?
Boeing had probably knocked on the door for a while, and they needed to get this funding on the books ahead of the merger, with specific collaborations and projects that were still on the drawing board and therefore with budgets only formed vaguely. "$ 20 million is probably good," I imagine someone says in a boardroom somewhere.
There is no timeline on Virgin Galactic's first commercial flight, but it may be before the end of the year – a 2019 launch would be a nice feather to wear, but anyway there is no shortage of customers; It has reportedly already committed around $ 80 million for trips to space.