Investor Chamath Palihapitiya cashed out his entire personal stake in Virgin Galactic for $211 million

Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya.

  • Chamath Palihapitiya cashed out his personal stake in Virgin Galactic this week.
  • The space-tourism group’s chairman sold 6.2 million shares for about $211 million.
  • Palihapitiya still indirectly owns 15.8 million shares in Richard Branson’s startup.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya sold his entire personal stake in Virgin Galactic this week, a regulatory filing revealed on Friday.

The space-tourism company’s chairman cashed out his 6.2 million shares at an average price of $35, netting him around $211 million. Palihapitiya, along with his business partner Ian Osborne, still indirectly own 15.8 million shares via SCH Sponsor Corp, their investment vehicle.

Palihapitiya previously sold 3.8 million Virgin Galactic shares in December, tweeting that he needed to free up cash to fund several new projects this year.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s space startup went public in October 2019 by merging with Palihapitiya and Osborne’s Social Capital Hedosophia, a special-purpose acquisition vehicle or SPAC.

Palihapitiya is spearheading the current SPAC boom, using the vehicles to take companies such as Opendoor and Clover Health public at billion-dollar valuations.

Virgin Galactic’s stock price more than doubled in the first five weeks of this year, but has slumped by more than 40% since then. Its shares fell as much as 11% on Friday.

Here’s a chart showing Virgin Galactic’s stock price over the past year:

SPCE_Chart_050321
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A Spanish startup is offering trips to space in helium balloons as a cheaper alternative to SpaceX

Zero 2 Infinity
Setting off from Andalucia in the south of the country, the space trip will take six hours.

  • Spanish startup Zero 2 Infinity will soon be launching operational helium balloon space flights.
  • Tourists will be taken 40 kilometers above Earth, allowing them to enjoy the “overview effect.”
  • As well as being lower cost, it’s a lower risk operation than more ambitious missions like SpaceX.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Founded in 2009 by Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales, Spanish startup Zero 2 Infinity wants to launch passengers 40 kilometers into space using helium balloons.

Setting off from Andalucia in the south of Spain, the trip will take six hours.

The ascent will take three hours, while two hours will be spent floating in space, and a further hour will be spent on the descent.

Lopez-Urdiales was first struck by the idea while helping his astrophysicist father to float helium balloons to the threshold of space, he told Sifted.

The aim of the 40km flight is to allow passengers to experience the “overview effect,” allowing them to experience the blackness of space, the roundness of the earth, and its blue color – all without actually entering space itself, which is at around double the distance from Earth at 80 kilometers.

For the landing, the capsule containing the passengers detaches from the helium balloon and lands with a very large parachute, Lopez-Urdiales told El Economista.

He also highlighted that the space flight didn’t produce any noise or CO2 emissions, nor did it bring with it any risk of explosion.

The company previously carried out a test in 2012 sending a humanoid robot up to an altitude of 32 kilometers.

At the time they said they wanted to eventually offer hours of flight time so people could experience longer periods in space.

They conducted a further test in 2017 launching a prototype consisting of a balloon and a rocket to a height of 40 kilometers, Phys.Org reported.

SpaceX NASA
Through SpaceX, Elon Musk wants to get humans to Mars by 2026.

Zero 2 Infinity the only Spanish startup in the space tourism market. EOS-X Space, founded by Kemel Kharbachi, is exploring a very similar concept and plans to launch its first commercial flight in 2023.

Lopez-Urdiales accused Kharbachi of copying the company’s concept after he worked with them on a funding deal that fell through. However, Kharbachi has denied the accusations.

Other space tourism concepts entail entering space itself at a high altitude. One landmark moment was when Space Adventures launched businessman Dennis Tito up to the International Space Station for eight days.

The Richard Branson-headed Virgin Galactic also aims to launch flights into space. In 2019, it became the first space tourism company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX wants to go even further, getting humans to Mars by 2026 and eventually building colonies on the red planet.

Zero 2 Infinity’s concept comes at a much lower price than the other options, at just over $130,000. However, Lopez-Urdiales says the transport still has to be tested out by professionals, who are scheduled to do so later this year.

The company also still needs to secure another $2.4 million in funding, despite having already raised around $7.2 million.

“We already have the capsules, the permits, the insurance, and the flight center,” Lopez-Urdiales said. “It’s now just a question of securing the remaining funding.”

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