SpaceShipTwo “Unity” on the runway after an aborted spaceflight test on Dec. 12, 2020.
A Virgin Group spokesperson told CNBC that the firm “intends to use the net proceeds from this sale to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that continue to be affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19.” It’s the second time Branson has sold Virgin Galactic stock to help Virgin Group, as he sold about $500 million of his stake last May.
Virgin Galactic continues to work to complete development of the spacecraft that it plans to use to fly people to the edge of space and back. The company suffered a setback in December, when electromagnetic interference caused an early abort of its most recent spaceflight attempt. The next attempt is expected in May.
The development delays have pushed back Virgin Galactic’s planned debut of its space tourism service, with CEO Michael Colglazier saying the company does not expect to begin flying commercial flights until early 2022.
Virgin Galactic expects to fly four more spaceflight tests with its “VSS Unity” spacecraft, including flying Branson this summer.