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Why Virgin Orbit Shares Blasted Higher Today

By Howard Smith – Updated Jan 11, 2022 at 8:11PM

Key Points

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The newly public company says it is on track for a launch as early as tomorrow afternoon.

Editor's note: After this article was published, the company announced it is now targeting Jan. 13 for the soonest launch window, saying "As our team works through our pre-flight checklist, we're taking a little extra time to thoroughly validate the system and to check our sensor readings."

What happened

Richard Branson's commercial space launch company, Virgin Orbit (VORB -16.02%), just went public less than two weeks ago, and its shares are soaring today. As it gets closer to its first launch as a publicly traded company, investors are also getting excited. Virgin Orbit shares rocketed as much as 40% in Tuesday trading before paring some of those lofty gains. As of 3:17 p.m. ET, the stock was still 28% higher on the day. 

So what

The excitement comes from news that the launch of its third commercial mission, dubbed Above the Clouds, is on track to proceed as early as tomorrow. The company announced on its Twitter feed today that the mission is on pace to be ready for the start of its launch window that opens Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, or 1 p.m. local time from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. 

Virgin Orbit 747 sitting on tarmac with rocket ready for launch.

Image source: Virgin Orbit.

Now what

Virgin Orbit provides clients, including NASA, with a flying launch platform for small satellites. The Above the Clouds launch includes satellites for the Space Test Program of the U.S. Department of Defense; Polish company SatRevolution; and space data, analytics, and services company Spire Global. Shares of Spire Global are also higher by about 12.5% in today's trading. 

To date, Virgin Orbit has already placed 19 satellites into orbit. In its analyst day presentation prior to its public debut, the company touted its ability to serve commercial and defense needs that require flexibility. Its system for small rocket launches from 747 aircraft allows for lower cost and mobile capability for launch location. 

Once the upcoming launch is a go, the company said the rocket drop and ignition will occur about one hour after takeoff. Investors excited about the prospect have pushed the company's market cap to $3.5 billion today, its highest level since going public. 

Howard Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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