Aerospace giant Boeing has announced that it is investing $20m in Virgin Galactic to “broaden commercial space access and transform global travel technologies”.

Founded by Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is pioneering commercial space flight, with the aim of offering suborbital and orbital spaceflights for private individuals and researchers on a “routine, consistent and affordable basis”. It is the first company to put humans in space using commercial vehicles.

The company, which has already raised $1bn, has completed two crewed flights, with a suborbital test flight taking place in February, and initial commercial launch planned for 2020. It has already sold over 600 tickets for space tourism flight on its spacecraft, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber among those to book a seat.

Boeing, the largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes in the world, also has long-term experience in the space industry. The company is NASA’s prime private contractor for the International Space Station, and is currently constructing the Starliner space capsule, which will transport crew to and from the ISS.

Boeing-Virgin Galactic partnership to “change how people travel”

Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret said:

“The unique expertise of our companies stretches from points all around the world to the deepest reaches of space. Together we will change how people travel on Earth, and among the stars, for generations to come.”

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In July, Virgin Galactic announced its intention to go public through a business combination with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings, with this expected to be finalised before the end of the year. Boeing’s investment will be in return for shares in Virgin Galactic.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic said that the investment will help enable Virgin Galactic to deliver reusable, human spaceflight systems:

“We are excited to partner with Boeing to develop something that can truly change how people move around the planet and connect with one another. As a Virgin company, our focus will be on a safe and unparalleled customer experience, with environmental responsibility to the fore.”

Read more: Commercial space race: How close are Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin to taking tourists to space?