American aviation behemoth Boeing is training its ambition beyond the earthly skies, announcing a large investment into Virgin Orbit’s $3.2 billion SPAC listing. The company says it is putting $100 millioninto Richard Branson’s satellite launch startup, a spinoff of the space tourism venture Virgin Galactic that made its maiden launch this past month with Branson in tow. (Virgin Orbit’s first voyage into space came in January, when it successfully delivered ten NASA satellites to orbit after a failed attempt in 2020.) The space race is becoming more crowded by the day, as evidenced by Virgin Orbit competitors Firefly and Rocket Lab, the latter of which is valued at $4.4 billion.
For its part, Virgin Orbit says it has $4 billion in opportunities in the pipeline, with $300 million in backlogs across contract and launch service deals, and a $35 million contract with the U.S. Space Force for three missions. With the technological advances made by firms like Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp.—whose innovations have lowered the cost of missions by reusing rockets and other advancements—Virgin Orbit is using a customized Boeing 747 jumbo jet to launch its reusable rockets at about 35,000 feet above sea level. Though the landscape changes by the day, one thing is certain: the age of commercialized outer space has officially arrived.