Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit takes off on a rocket under the wings of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner for a major drop test of its high-altitude launch system for satellites from Mojave, Calif., July 10, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch spin-off from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, is in advanced discussions to go public via a SPAC led by a former Goldman Sachs partner valued at approximately $ 3 billion , confirmed CNBC on Saturday.
The company is in talks about a deal with NextGen Acquisition II, a person familiar with the discussions told CNBC. NextGen II is a special-purpose acquisition company co-led by George Mattson, who previously led Goldman’s global industrial group, and former PerkinElmer Chairman and CEO Gregory Sum.
Sky News first covered the talks on Saturday and said a deal will be announced in the coming weeks. Virgin Orbit declined CNBC’s request for comment.
The company is a spin-off from Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic. Virgin Orbit is privately owned by Branson’s multinational conglomerate Virgin Group, with a minority stake in Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala.
The company’s first demonstration launch in May 2020.
Greg Robinson | Jungfrau Railway Or
Virgin Orbit uses a modified Boeing 747 aircraft to launch its missiles, a method known as air launch. Rather than launching missiles from the ground like competitors like Rocket Lab or Astra do, the company’s planes carry its LauncherOne missiles up to an altitude of around 45,000 feet and drop them just before they fire the engine and accelerate into space – a method that the company is promoting more flexibly than a ground-based system.
LauncherOne is designed to carry small satellites weighing up to 500 kilograms, or around 1,100 pounds, into space. Virgin Orbit completed its first successful launch in January and plans to have its second later this month.
Next Gen II raised $ 350 million when it completed its IPO in March and an additional $ 33 million greenshoe deal in April for a total of $ 383 million. The funds would primarily be used to help Virgin Orbit scale its business. Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart told CNBC in October that the company plans to raise approximately $ 150 million in fresh capital.
Branson brought Virgin Galactic to the public in 2019 through a SPAC deal with billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya.
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