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Virgin Galactic's stock soars as US grants commercial license

By AFP - Jun 27,2021 - Last updated at Jun 27,2021

In this file photo taken on October 27, 2019, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, rings a ceremonial bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to promote the first day of trading of Virgin Galactic Holdings shares in New York City (AFP photo)

NEW YORK — Virgin Galactic skyrocketed on Wall Street on Friday after US officials approved the first commercial licence to take consumers to space.

Shares of the company founded by Richard Branson were up almost 35 per cent at midday at $53.98 as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said its approval of Virgin's license marked "a new chapter in the story of human space flight".

FAA approval came after the agency determined that company's hardware and software functioned well during a test flight.

Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Michael Colglazier cheered the decision, saying FAA approval gives "us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer".

The company still plans three additional test flights, one of which is expected to include Branson himself.

Virgin Galactic is targeting early 2022 to begin commercial service. The company has sold some 600 tickets priced at between $200,000 to $250,000.

Earlier this month, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced plans to fly into space in July with his company, Blue Origin. A mystery bidder spent $28 million to join Bezos and his brother in the July 20 launch.

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