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Why Virgin Galactic Stock Popped This Morning

By Rich Smith - Feb 19, 2021 at 11:00AM

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Space news is good news for the original pure-play space stock.

What happened

Once upon a time -- a little over a year ago -- Virgin Galactic Holdings (SPCE 6.44%) founder Sir Richard Branson decided to take his space tourism company public in a SPAC-sponsored IPO.

His reason: to give investors a chance to "dabble a little bit in a spaceship company, own a little bit of a spaceship company." Lucky for him, the public interest in space as a sector for investment was just picking up, and the idea proved very popular indeed. Virgin Galactic stock is now up five times in less than one year as a result -- including a 5.2% gain through 10:30 a.m. EST this morning.

First photograph of Mars from the Perseverance Rover.

Image source: NASA.

So what

Why is Virgin Galactic stock up today? It's not because of the rumor that was floating around on TheFly.com earlier this week, that the company's postponed test flight from last Saturday would take place this Saturday instead. According to media reports, that rumor has already been debunked, and Virgin Galactic has confirmed it made "no communication" regarding a new test flight.

Rather, I suspect what's happening today is investors simply showing their excitement about space as an investment sector again. Specifically, at 3:55 p.m. EST Thursday, NASA's Perseverance rover and Ingenuity drone helicopter landed safely on Mars.  

Now what

What do robots on Mars have to do with Virgin Galactic's business of flying tourists to space and back around Earth? Maybe not a whole heck of a lot, in the near term. But remember that while Virgin Galactic's first business focus may be "space tourism" on Earth, the sky's actually no limit on where it might go in the future. Already, Virgin Galactic sister company Virgin Orbit has publicized plans to send "the world's first dedicated commercial small satellite mission to Mars."

When you consider that Branson is the driving force behind both Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, you can hardly blame investors in the former for getting excited about the potential for future synergies any time a bit of good space news pops up in the headlines.

And I think that's exactly what we're seeing today.

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