Virgin Galactic (SPCE) shares on Monday soared after the space exploration company said it and NASA agreed to a program to train astronauts, including private individuals, for journeys to the International Space Station.
The agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center is meant to “encourage commercial participation in orbital human spaceflight to the International Space Station while enabling the development of a robust economy in Low Earth Orbit,” Virgin Galactic said in a statement.
Virgin Galactic was founded and is partly owned by the entrepreneur Richard Branson.
NASA is seeking more commercial use of the station, including trips by private astronauts.
“Under the agreement, Virgin Galactic will develop a new private orbital astronaut readiness program,” the company said.
“This program will include identifying candidates interested in purchasing private astronaut missions to the ISS, the procurement of transportation to the ISS, on-orbit resources, and ground resources.”
The company didn’t say how much the program would cost.
Virgin Galactic is unlikely to "use its own vehicles for transporting people to and from the station," Space News reported.
"SpaceShipTwo is capable of only suborbital flight, and the company’s published long-term plans focus on high-speed point-to-point transportation.
“The company would more likely work with Boeing (BA) - Get Report and SpaceX, the companies developing commercial crew vehicles for accessing the ISS. Both companies have shown interest in working with third parties rather than sell seats to individuals directly.”
Virgin Galactic shares at last check stood at $17.65, up 18%. The stock had jumped 34% in the three months through Friday, compared with 35% for the S&P 500.