Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Virgin Galactic is going public, joining with former Facebook senior executive Chamath Palihapitiya's Social Capital Hedosophia in a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that will see SCH invest $800 million for a 49% stake in the company.

Details: The company is expected to finish the merger by the second half of the year, according to a press release sent this morning, making Richard Branson's space-tourism venture into the first publicly traded human spaceflight company.

  • Virgin Galactic is in a race with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to send tourists into space, and the company expects the deal will provide enough capital to fund the business until its commercial spaceships can operate and turn a profit.
  • Virgin Galactic has raised more than $1 billion since it was founded in 2004, mostly from Branson's own fortune.

Our thought bubble from Axios Space newsletter writer Miriam Kramer: Taking the company public is a bold move for a private spaceflight company that has yet to fly its first tourists. Spaceflight is hard, and Virgin Galactic's program has been marked by delays and a tragic accident in 2014 that killed one pilot and injured another.

  • And Axios' Felix Salmon: If this deal values Virgin Galactic at $1.5 billion, that's less than 5% of the valuation of SpaceX.

Go deeper: Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic conducts historic 2nd test flight

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 18,187,396 — Total deaths: 691,352 — Total recoveries — 10,841,436Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 4,711,323 — Total deaths: 155,379 — Total recoveries: 1,513,446 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Sports: 13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive, prompting MLB to cancel Tigers series — Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.
  5. 1 🎥 thing: "Tenet" may be the first major film to get a global pandemic release.

In photos: Thousands evacuated as Southern California fire grows

A plane makes a retardant drop on a ridge at the Apple Fire north of Banning in Riverside County, which "doubled in size" Saturday, per KTLA. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A massive wildfire that prompted mandatory evacuations in Southern California over the weekend burned 26,450 acres and was 5% contained by Monday afternoon, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The big picture: As California remains an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., some 15 separate fires are raging across the state. About 7,800 people were under evacuation orders from the Apple Fire, about 75 miles east of Los Angeles, as hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze. CalFire said Monday that a malfunction involving a "diesel-fueled vehicle emitting burning carbon from the exhaust system" started the Apple Fire.

Twitter faces FTC fine of up to $250 million over alleged privacy violations

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket

The Federal Trade Commission has accused Twitter of using phone numbers and emails from its users to make targeted ads between 2013 and 2019, Twitter said in an SEC filing published Monday.

Why it matters: Twitter estimates that the FTC's draft complaint, which was sent a few days after its Q2 earnings report, could cost the company between $150 million and $250 million. The complaint is unrelated to the recent Twitter hack involving a bitcoin scam.