Shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings (NYSE:SPCE) jumped more than 15% on Monday after the aerospace company said it would train people to become astronauts and travel to the International Space Station (ISS).
Virgin Galactic will work with NASA's Johnson Space Center to develop a program that identifies people interested in purchasing trips to the ISS; trains them for the rigors of the voyage; and helps them obtain the necessary supplies. Virgin Galactic said these voyages "could range from private citizen expeditions to government-enabled scientific research missions."
Virgin Galactic will provide its customers with private astronaut training at its Spaceport America base in New Mexico. The company said its existing space experiences could also be used to train people for orbital travel, by allowing them to become more familiar with space-like environments.
"We are excited to partner with NASA on this private orbital spaceflight program, which will not only allow us to use our spaceflight platform, but also offer our space training infrastructure to NASA and other agencies," Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in a press release. "Based on the unsurpassed levels of spaceflight customer commitments we have secured to date, we are proud to share that insight in helping to grow another market for the new space economy."
Virgin Galactic is helping to create an entirely new industry centered on space tourism. The high-speed space travel market will grow to more than $20 billion by 2030, with space tourism accounting for $3 billion, according to analysts at UBS.
"We want to bring the planetary perspective to many thousands of people," Whitesides said.