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Virgin Galactic Lifts Off as Morgan Stanley Launches Coverage on Bullish Note

Virgin Galactic has potential as not just a space-tourism company but also as an incubator for hypersonic air travel, an analyst contends.

Shares of Virgin Galactic (SPCE) - Get Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. Report blasted off Monday after Morgan Stanley launched coverage of the space tourism company with an overweight rating.

Virgin Galactic's stock price shot up 17% to $8.50 after Morgan Stanley also set a bullish $22-a-share price target as well.

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas contends the technology Virgin Galactic is developing may hold the most promise for Earth's friendly skies -- and the airline industry -- rather than the heavens above.

Space-tourism ventures like Virgin Galactic are effectively serving as incubators for the technology needed to develop hypersonic point-to-point air travel, which would involve travel at four to five times the speed of sound.

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Virgin Galactic has the potential to be a major player in this and new and yet-to-be developed market, which Jonas wrote could amount to $800 billion a year by 2040, according to Bloomberg.

In line with his analysis, Jonas values Virgin Galactic's space-tourism business at $10 a share, a premium above its current trading price but still less than half of Morgan Stanley's overall price target.

Still, Virgin Galactic's space-tourism business has the potential to be a money maker on its own, with the company having already taken 600 reservations -- at $250,000 a pop -- for a 90-minute ride.

And despite the science fiction feel to space tourism and H2P, Virgin Galactic is comparable to a biotech stock, Jonas wrote, noting it has "biotech-like risk reward."