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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

Go deeper

Lawmakers reach deal on bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6

Speaker Pelosi outside the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House negotiators have reached an agreement on the parameters of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the "facts and circumstances" surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the House Homeland Security Committee announced Friday.

Why it matters: The formation of a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission had been delayed for months, after some Republicans insisted that the scope of the investigation be expanded to include violence by far-left protesters last summer.

Elise Stefanik elected No. 3 House Republican after Liz Cheney ouster

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on May 12. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

House Republicans voted 134-46 in a secret ballot Friday to appoint Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) as the chair of the GOP conference, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

Why it matters: Stefanik's appointment underscores how important loyalty to former President Trump remains to the Republican Party.

Retail sales flat in April after huge surge in March

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

April retail sales in the U.S. were unchanged from March, which saw a surge revised up to 10.7%, according to the latest Commerce Department report published Friday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has been entering a period of growing optimism in the wake of the vaccine rollout, falling new COVID-19 cases and deaths, and a slowly recovering labor market. Retail sales were up 51% year-over-year compared to April 2020.