June 22 (Reuters) – Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc said on Monday it has signed up with NASA to develop a program to promote private missions to the International Space Station, sending the shares of the company up about 10%.
As part of its agreement with the Johnson Space Center, the space tourism company will identify entities keen to buy private missions and develop training packages, as well as aid in transportation, on-orbit and ground resources.
The company competes with billionaire-backed ventures such as Amazon.com Inc’s Blue Origin that are vying to usher in a new era of space tourism, racing to be the first to offer sub-orbital flights to civilian space travelers.
This is the second agreement between Virgin Galactic and the U.S.
space agency. In May, the two sides entered an agreement to develop ‘high-Mach’ aircraft for potential civilian use.
For NASA, the private partnerships are helping it revive its own human space missions. Last month, Elon Musk’s SpaceX ended NASA’s nine-year hiatus by delivering two astronauts to the ISS.
The space agency is leaning heavily on private companies built around shared visions for space exploration, as it gears up for a long-term presence on the moon and prepares for a manned mission to Mars.
Shares of the company were up at $16.49 in morning trade.
(Reporting by Neha Malara; Editing by Arun Koyyur)
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