Sir Richard Branson, founder of spaceflight and space tourism firm Virgin Galactic, expects to take his firm public -- probably within this month or November -- while retaining majority control of the merged firm.

Virgin Galactic had widely been expected to go public without resorting to an IPO within the fourth quarter. Branson didn't explain the reason for advancing the date but did indicate on Wednesday that going public might take place in the early part of the fourth quarter.

“It’s not long now” until Virgin Galactic lists said Branson to CNBC.

When it does list on the New York Stock Exchange, Virgin Galactic will become the first human spaceflight company to go public. This milestone will occur when Virgin Galactic merges with publicly traded shell company, Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings (SCH). SCH is a special-purpose acquisition company created by venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, who is also a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.

The merger will effectively transform Virgin Galactic into a publicly traded "New Space" company without having to go through the traditional IPO process. Branson affirmed he will retain his majority stake even after Virgin Galactic lists, saying he doesn't plan to sell his shares.

“I will retain control of the company,” said Branson. “I will keep roughly 51%.”

The merger will see SCH shareholders acquire 49 percent of Virgin Galactic's equity. It will create "the first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company" in the world.

The publicly traded Virgin Galactic will have an enterprise value of $1.5 billion, and expects to begin generating revenue by 2023.

Virgin Galactic foresees its market capitalization at $2 billion. This sum will be offset by $500 million in cash and marketable securities easily convertible into cash after the merger. The merger will leave current Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides in control of the public firm.

Virgin Galactic is developing commercial spacecraft such as VSS Unity to fly space tourists into low Earth orbit (LEO). It will also undertake suborbital launches for space science missions for NASA and scientific institutions worldwide.

VSS Unity can carry up to six paying passengers (and two pilots) to LEO. It's dropped from a jet-powered aircraft and climbs though the Earth’s atmosphere to reach LEO. At the edge of space, the spacecraft's space tourists float weightless for a few minutes.

A ticket for a flight on VSS Unity goes for $250,000 per person. Virgin Galactic says 603 customers have bought tickets.

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo takes off for a suborbital test flight of the VSS Unity in Mojave, California on Dec. 13, 2018. GENE BLEVINS/AFP/Getty Images