Branson, Bezos, Musk give space ETFs liftoff

Virgin Galactic shares have soared 122% this year

A new space race is underway, as Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson prepares for a test flight to the edge of space before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gets there himself.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk's SpaceX has already had several successful launches under his company's belt in partnership with NASA, as he also runs Tesla. 

RICHARD BRANSON GIVES TOUR OF VIRGIN GALACTIC'S UNITY SPACECRAFT

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
SPCE VIRGIN GALACTIC HOLDINGS INC. 26.42 +1.93 +7.88%
AMZN AMAZON.COM, INC. 3,462.52 -25.72 -0.74%
TSLA TESLA, INC. 759.49 +2.50 +0.33%

Branson, on Thursday, detailed his Sunday flight plan for Virgin Orbit which will take place nine days before Bezos’s scheduled test flight via his own space tourism company, Blue Orbit. 

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The British billionaire's flight will use airplanes equipped with a space launch vehicle that will detach and then climb to the edge of space at the Kármán line, which is recognized by NASA at 50 miles above sea level. 

Already, investors have driven shares of Virgin Galactic up 122% this year alone. 

The efforts of these billionaires are likely to lead to more ripple effects in space stocks—and space ETFs, according to ETFtrends.com. 

Virgin Orbit is planning to go public via a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) later this year, with an intended valuation of $3 billion.

Investing in Space: UFO & ARKX

Currently, there are two pure-play space ETFs: the $621 million ARK Space Exploration and Innovation ETF (ARKX) and the $131 million Procure Space ETF (UFO).

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Ticker Security Last Change Change %
ARKX ARK ETF TR SPACE EXPLORATION & INNOVAT 20.48 -0.01 -0.07%
UFO PROCURE ETF TRUST II PROCURE SPACE ETF 30.39 +0.11 +0.36%

UFO was the first to head to space. Launched in 2019, the fund tracks the S-Network Space Index, an index that tracks companies involved in a variety of space-related enterprises. This includes firms involved in satellite and rocket manufacturing, satellite-based consumer services and products, space technology hardware, and space intelligence services, including imagery. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
TRBM n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
GSAT GLOBALSTAR INC. 1.77 -0.02 -1.12%

Top holdings in UFO include Virgin Galactic Holdings, with a 5.97% weight; Trimble Inc (TRMB), a satellite component manufacturer with a 4.95% weight; and GlobalStar Inc (GSAT), a satellite-based communications company with a 4.89% weight. 

UFO has an expense ratio of 0.75%.

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ARK Enters the Space Race

Meanwhile, ARKX tracks space exploration and innovation companies, including orbital space companies, suborbital space companies, companies that enable the technologies used for space exploration, and companies that are positioned to benefit from space exploration.

ARKX, like most ARK funds, is actively managed. In practice, that allows the fund to turn to out-of-the-box holdings that investors don’t readily associate with the space industry.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
PRNT ARK ETF TR 3D PRINTING ETF 38.72 -0.36 -0.92%
KTSO n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.

Top holdings within ARKX include Trimble Inc (with 9.64% weight); the company’s own 3D Printing ETF (PRNT), with a 6.8% weight; and Kratos Defense and Security (KTOS), with a 6.51% weight. 

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ARKX has an expense ratio of 0.75%.