What happened

A funny thing happened when Virgin Galactic Holdings (NYSE:SPCE) reported its third-quarter earnings last Thursday. Virgin reported a $0.34 per share loss when analysts had expected $0.26 in losses, and the stock went down about 1%. But then, Virgin Galactic stock turned around and headed back up.

It was up 7.5% on Monday. It was up again a small fraction of a percent on Tuesday. And now, it's up again today, rising 7.9% as of 12:25 p.m. EST. So what's up with Virgin Galactic this time?

SpaceShipTwo rocketing towards space.

Image source: Virgin Galactic.

So what

Honestly, there doesn't seem to be any actual news driving Virgin Galactic higher today. There wasn't any news yesterday either, or the day before. So to get to the bottom of the mystery, I think we need to go back to Nov. 6, when Virgin Galactic started rising.

Now what

What happened on Nov. 6, you ask? According to our friends at StreetInsider.com, that was the day that investment bank Cowen & Co. published a report reiterating its outperform rating on Virgin Galactic and predicting the future for the company. As Cowen explained, a series of preparatory test flights shows that Virgin is making slow but steady progress toward its ultimate goal of receiving FAA approval to begin flying passengers to space.

Cowen anticipates that these test flights will continue from November through the first quarter of 2021, and projects that by the second quarter, the company will finally begin commercial spaceflights, ending the year with perhaps $12.4 million in revenue. It will still be another year (Q2 2022) cautions Cowen, before Virgin Galactic is running regular commercial spaceflights on anything akin to an airline-like schedule.

But just the fact that it's making progress toward that goal seems to be enough to satisfy investors this week.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.