Virgin Galactic: What You Need to Know About Richard Branson's Spaceship Venture

Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

Its spaceships are tested and approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the company is preparing to launch the first ever commerical space flight as soon as next year.

Last December, Virgin Galactic successfully sent a rocket to the edge of Earth's atmostphere; the manned mission became a landmark test of sorts for other space tourism firms SpaceX, founded by Tesla TSLA CEO Elon Musk, and Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon AMZN boss Jeff Bezos.

Virgin Galactic's spacecraft can carry six passengers and two pilots and can reach over three times the speed of sound as it soars through Earth's atmosphere. Flights cost about $250,000 per person, and the company already has a wait list of 603 customers; celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber are rumored to be some of the first passengers.

Virgin Galactic is also getting ready for a direct listing. Shareholders recently approved a merger with shell company Social Capital Hedosophia IPOA.The deal values the combined company at $1.5 billion. Shares are set to open on the NYSE on Monday, and will trade under the ticker symbol SPCE.

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