SPCE

Why Virgin Galactic, AST SpaceMobile, and Rocket Lab Stocks All Rocketed Today

After a long holiday weekend, shares of U.S. space stocks took off like rockets on Tuesday. As of 1:20 p.m. ET, AST SpaceMobile (NASDAQ: ASTS) had gained 6.3% and seemed poised to resume its winning streak. Rocket Lab USA (NASDAQ: RKLB) wasn't far behind, up 5.6% after announcing a successful weekend rocket launch.

Best of all was Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) stock. On Monday, multiple news outlets reported that the Swiss National Bank has been buying up Virgin Galactic stock, and investors have been doing the same. As of 1:20 p.m. ET Tuesday, Virgin Galactic stock was up 22.1%.

Why space stocks are rocketing

Virgin Galactic is easily Tuesday's biggest winner, but on a curious catalyst. Switzerland's central bank -- its equivalent to the U.S. Federal Reserve -- reported that it increased its stake in Virgin Galactic by 23% in the first quarter.

The actual size of SNB's purchase, however, was tiny, just 128,400 shares worth about $135,000 at Tuesday afternoon's price. That seems a small purchase to justify an almost $80 million increase in Virgin Galactic's market capitalization.

Rocket Lab's 5.6% increase in market cap appears more rational in relation to the size of its news. On Saturday, the company launched the first of two "Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment" (PREFIRE) satellites for NASA. The satellites, which will orbit pole to pole, circling Earth north to south, appear to be Rocket Lab's first launches into such an orbit, and demonstrate the company's proficiency in launching small payloads to specific orbits desired by its customers -- a key capability differentiator when launching small satellites.

And what about AST SpaceMobile?

AST SpaceMobile's upward move demonstrates continued investor enthusiasm regarding the contract AST signed with AT&T (NYSE: T) last week. The two companies will partner to roll out satellite-to-cellphone commercial service to supplement AT&T's connectivity in places where its network lacks cell coverage. AST will need to launch five comsats this summer to get the service off the ground.

Of the three companies, Rocket Lab is closest to profitability, with analysts forecasting it will earn its first profit in 2026. AST is next -- the consensus is that it will get into the black in 2027. However, analysts warn that Virgin Galactic won't turn a profit before 2028, if then.

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Rich Smith has positions in Rocket Lab USA. The Motley Fool recommends Rocket Lab USA. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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