Accredited Space Agent


11.10.2011 /

Virgin Galactic is pleased to announce the appointment of former NASA executive Michael P. Moses as the Vice President of Operations. Just days prior to the dedication of the company's operational headquarters at Spaceport America in New Mexico, Virgin has named the highly respected human space flight leader to oversee the planning and execution of all operations at the site of the company's commercial suborbital spaceflight program.

Following a distinguished career in NASA's recently-retired Space Shuttle Program, Moses brings to Virgin Galactic a proven record of safe, successful and secure human spaceflight missions, spaceport operations, and human spaceflight program leadership. He served at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the Launch Integration Manager from 2008 until the landing of the final Shuttle mission in July 2011. He was responsible for supervising all Space Shuttle processing activities from landing through launch, and for reviewing major milestones including final readiness for flight.

He also served as chair of the Mission Management Team and provided ultimate launch decision authority for the final 12 missions of the Space Shuttle Program, directly overseeing the safe and successful flights of 75 astronauts.

Moses will develop and lead the team responsible for Virgin Galactic spaceship operations and logistics, flight crew operations, customer training, and spaceport ground operations, with overall operational safety and risk management as the primary focus.

"Bringing Mike in to lead the team represents a significant investment in our commitment to operational safety and success as we prepare to launch commercial operations," said Virgin Galactic President and CEO, George Whitesides. "His experience and track record in all facets of spaceflight operations are truly unique. His forward-thinking perspective to bring the hard-won lessons of human spaceflight into our operations will benefit us tremendously."

Prior to his most recent NASA role, Moses served as a Flight Director at the NASA Johnson Space Center where he led teams of Flight Controllers in the planning, training and execution of all aspects of Space Shuttle missions. Before being selected as a Flight Director in 2005, Moses had over 10 years experience as a Flight Controller in the Shuttle Propulsion and Electrical Systems Groups.

Moses said, "I am extremely excited to be joining Virgin Galactic at this time, helping to forge the foundations that will enable routine commercial suborbital spaceflights. Virgin Galactic will expand the legacy of human spaceflight beyond traditional government programs into the world's first privately funded commercial spaceline."

Moses holds a bachelors degree in Physics from Purdue University, a masters degree in space sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and a masters degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University. He is a two-time recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal as well as other NASA commendations and awards.

back to top
28.02.2011 /

As a child growing up on Scotland's north coast, Dave Mackay harboured a dream that seemed so out-of-this-world that he kept it secret from all but his closest friends.

From the age of seven, when he won the Ladybird book of space as a Sunday school prize, he set his heart on becoming an astronaut. That fascination grew when, aged 12, he watched the Apollo Moon landing on a crackly black-and-white television at school in Sutherland.

He later joined the RAF and became one of its leading test pilots, pursuing the same "top gun" career path as America's early astronauts, the Right Stuff brigade.

"But by my mid-30s, I just thought this is not going to happen, I am never going to become an astronaut in the UK," said Mr Mackay, who joined Virgin Atlantic as a commercial pilot.

Now, however, nearly five decades after his love affair with space began, Mr Mackay is training to become the first captain to fly paying tourists into space at $200,000 a ticket.

The 54-year-old Scot recently moved to the US to take up the role of chief pilot of Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson's new commercial space business.

He was speaking last week at a desert airbase in southern California where The Sunday Telegraph was given rare access to a test flight by Virgin Galactic's spaceship, the VSS Enterprise - named after the vessel of Star Trek fame.

Here in the bone-dry Mojave wilderness, the future of space travel is taking shape even as another era is about to end with Friday's final Shuttle launch across the country in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"I was a frustrated astronaut all my life," said Mr Mackay. "I had grown up at a time when space seemed to have no boundaries and lot of us presumed humans would be living on the Moon and landing on Mars. At the time, it seemed very disappointing to realise that wasn't going to happen.

"So what's happening out here in the Mojave now shows that dreams do come true and you should never give up on them. This really feels like the new frontier of flight."

He is scheduled to be the first pilot to deliver the memorable in-flight announcement informing passengers that they have reached the weightless world of zero gravity more than 62.5 miles above the earth - the 100 km altitude widely recognised as the start of space.

Asked how he will phrase that historic message, he said: "Oh I imagine I'll say: 'Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to space. You are now free to float around the cabin'."

As a Briton, Mr Mackay is still awaiting final security clearance from the US authorities to test-fly the spaceship as the vessel contains sensitive dual-use technology that could have military applications.

So on the day that we visited the Mojave base, he took the controls of the chase plane, a small acrobatic aircraft that monitored the VSS Enterprise's performance from mid-air. The spaceship was flown by Pete Siebold, a pilot from Scaled Composites, the US aerospace company contracted by Virgin Galactic to build and develop its vessels.

As the first hues of pre-dawn red streaked across the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Enterprise emerged onto the runway, attached to the belly of its mother vessel, White Knight Two.

Shortly after the sun broke over the horizon, the instruction "cleared for take-off" crackled across the walkie-talkies of support staff. And at 5.50 am, White Knight Two powered down the runway, the VSS Enterprise hooked into a pod below its gaping central wing span.

It was a dramatic spectacle as the conjoined couple, resembling a giant bird carrying its prey, soared into the cloudless early morning skies. They climbed to a height of more than 53,000 ft above the desert before the instruction "release, release, release" came through and the spaceship dropped away from the mother craft for its unpowered test flight back to earth.

This will also be the process when Mr Mackay flies his first passengers - Sir Richard and family - into space in what is expected to be about 18 months time. That day, he will fire up the rockets as soon after he is released by White Knight Two, thrusting the Enterprise nearly another 300,000 feet into space at about 3.5 times the speed of sound and flattening the passengers back into their seats.

But for now the rockets have not yet been attached as Virgin Galactic and Scaled are initially testing the spaceship's handling as it glides back down to earth - as it will do after completing its brief but spectacular sub-orbital journey when it is in full operation.

High in the skies above us, Mr Siebold put the Enterprise through its paces, rolling left and right after an initial 15-second planned freefall that replicated the feeling of zero gravity inside the vehicle for the first time.

"It was a neat experience to imagine what it will like to be weightless in there," he said afterwards. "As pilots, we're strapped in of course, but you still feel the thrill and the butterflies in the stomach. And it was cool to watch our pens and papers starting floating around."

He then nosed the spaceship down at speeds that reached 290 knots, the fastest it has flown, as it headed back to earth unpowered. Mr Mackay picked up the trail of the Enterprise at about 8,000 feet, following at just 30 ft as he checked its performance from outside.

"It's a really beautiful machine in flight, far prettier than it looks on the ground," said Mr Mackay. Back on ground, Mr Siebold added: "As soon as we land, we just want to go back and do it all over again. It's a great vehicle."

Scaled's engineers have focussed recently on testing the re-entry "feathering" configuration in a new milestone for the programme. By rotating the tail section of spacecraft upwards, while the fuselage remains at a level pitch, the spacecraft descends almost vertically, slowed and controlled with the shuttlecock-like drag of the "feathering", before the pilots adjust the vessel back to normal glide mode to complete its landing.

The Mojave is one of America's most inhospitable tracts, a barren terrain of canyons, buttes and salt flats dotted with the occasional abandoned mining "ghost town". The area's remote open spaces have attracted the US military to conduct top-secret tests of new planes and weaponry for decades and now a new breed of commercial spaces businesses are pushing towards the final frontier from the West's wildest corner.

Virgin Galactic believes it leads the field to become the world's first commercial spaceline, although other more publicity-averse billionaire-backed businesses are pursuing their own projects.

The demise of the Shuttle programme, 30 years after the launch, has been disheartening for many. But these are also exhilarating times for the new breed of players in space exploration.

"It's very sad that there's going to be a hiatus in manned space flight from the US," said Mr Mackay. "The Shuttle was a fantastic, hugely complex vehicle. It was inevitable it would come to an end, but this is the opportunity for the commercial world to get involved. As the Shuttle era ends, another window of opportunity opens."

He became involved in that world when Virgin asked him to look at an earlier spaceship project and he tried the controls of a simulator. "I was really impressed and I thought 'wow, this could really work'," he said.

He has felt the equivalent of zero-gravity previously as a pilot, when he was strapped into his seat, but recently experienced the sensation of free-floating weightlessness for the first time as a passenger on a so-called parabolic flight during which the aircraft goes through free fall at certain points.

"The big discovery for me was how much fun it was," he said. "At one stage, my feet were in the roof of the plane. I felt like a kid and I just couldn't stop giggling."

Virgin Galactic's space tourists will experience zero gravity as they float freely while the craft is in space for about five minutes before beginning its unpowered descent back into the atmosphere. They will be able to see the earth's horizons curving for thousands of miles and also the contrast between night and day in the skies from side and overhead windows in a cabin that is about 15ft long and 7ft 6in in diameter.

The adventure will involve a three-day preparation and immersion and take place from the luxurious environs of the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, designed by Lord Foster, the British architect, and emerging from the scrub of New Mexico ranchland.

Some 440 people have already paid their deposit for the trip, including celebrities such as Russell Brand and Katy Perry and Victoria Principal, the former Dallas star, Prof Stephen Hawking and Bryan Singer, the science-fiction director.

"There are certainly some big names who have signed up, but most of our customers are not famous," said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic's chief executive. "They are, however, successful and they share this wonder about space and dream of going there."

The initial target is space tourism. But Virgin Galactic and its commercial rivals also intend to pioneer a new "industrial revolution" in sub-orbital transport for scientific research, satellites and even long-distance travel that could slash flying times between far-flung destinations.

Mr Mackay is now at the forefront of the new race for space. It shows that the dreams of a seven-year-old do sometimes come true.

By Philip Sherwell, The Telegraph

back to top
28.02.2011 /

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, LLC, the world's first commercial spaceline, announced today the first ever commercial contracts to fly scientists into space for the purpose of conducting research experiments.

Virgin Galactic's signed contract with the Southwest Research Institute is the first such agreement to fly scientists into space (over 100 kilometers or 328,000 feet above the Earth), enabling valuable microgravity, biology, climate and astronomy research.

As part of the contract announced today, SwRI has made full deposits for two researchers to fly on Virgin Galactic's spacecraft, with the intent to make similar arrangements for an additional six seats for a total value of $1.6m. As well as flying its own researchers, who will carry scientific experiments developed by its in-house technical staff, SwRI also aims to assist American researchers who do not have direct spaceflight experience to develop and fly their payloads and personnel on suborbital missions.

Commenting on the agreement, George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic said: "This agreement signals the enormous scientific potential of the Virgin spaceflight system. Virgin Galactic will be able to offer researchers flights to space that are unprecedented in frequency and cost. Science flights will be an important growth area for the company in the years to come, building on the strong commercial success already demonstrated by deposits received from over 400 individuals for Virgin's space experience".

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is the only crewed suborbital vehicle in flight test today, and the only vehicle based on a spacecraft that has already sent humans into space, the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne. Virgin Galactic offers a significantly larger cabin than any other company taking deposits today, allowing unique technology demonstrations and science experiments.

SwRI's Dr. Alan Stern, Associate Vice President of SwRI's Space Division and former NASA Associate Administrator for Science, stated: "We at SwRI are very excited about this agreement. Initially, two of our payload specialists will be flying on Virgin Galactic, conducting biomedical monitoring, atmospheric imaging, and microgravity planetary regolith experiments. We're excited to be flying with Virgin Galactic to pioneer research missions on their amazing vehicles; we look forward to the not so distant day when entire Virgin Galactic flights are filled with researchers and their experiments." Dr. Stern is the Principal Investigator of this project.

NASA has recognized the importance of this research platform through its new Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Flight Opportunities program. While separate from today's announcement, that program will open significant additional opportunities for researchers onboard suborbital vehicles. The Virgin Galactic-SwRI agreement represents another important endorsement of the value of regular commercial human space access for a wide range of science and educational applications.

About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic is on track to be the world's first commercial spaceline. The new spaceship (VSS Enterprise) and Mothership (VMS Eve) are both being developed for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the $10m Ansari X Prize as the world's first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic's new vehicles share much of the same basic design but are being built to carry six customers on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space. The VSS Enterprise test flight program will continue through 2011, prior to commercial operations, which will be based at Virgin Galactic's future headquarters at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

About SwRI
Southwest Research Institute is an independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization using multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving. SwRI occupies more than 1,200 acres and provides more than 2 million square feet of laboratories, test facilities, workshops and offices for more than 3,000 employees who perform contract work for government and industry clients. In support of one its largest programs, SwRI researchers working from San Antonio and Boulder, Colo., lead an array of space science projects, including the development of scientific payloads for satellites and sounding rockets, the design and management of complex hardware and data systems, and the study of solar system and astrophysical objects.

back to top
22.10.2010 /

UPHAM, NM - The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) today dedicated the nearly two-mile long "Governor Bill RIchardson Spaceway" at Spaceport America, representing significant progress toward launching commercial customers into space from the desert of New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson, Sir Richard Branson and approximately 30 of more than 380 Virgin Galactic future astronauts attended the event along with guests from around the world and watched a flyover and landing by Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo, in a captive carry with SpaceShipTwo.

"We are celebrating the world's first spaceway at the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport," said Governor Richardson. "New Mexico is not only helping to launch the commercial spaceflight industry, but we are launching new jobs and opportunities for the people of southern New Mexico. Today marks a significant milestone on our historic and exciting journey."

The nearly two-mile long runway was officially named the "Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway" at the event, and Governor Richardson joined Sir Richard in placing their handprints in clay as a permanent commemoration of the historic day. NMSA Chairman Ben Woods said the board of the NMSA had met early today to formally and unanimously approve the name of the spaceway.

Sir Richard Branson commented, "It is incredible to be here today with Governor Richardson and be part of the runway dedication at Spaceport America. To see for myself how far the construction has come from when I last visited New Mexico is truly inspiring – I for one can't wait for the grand opening – today has brought it one step closer to reality for me. The last few weeks have been some of the most exciting in Virgin Galactic's development. Our spaceship is flying beautifully and will soon be making powered flights, propelled by our new hybrid rocket motor, which is also making excellent progress in its own test program. The investment deal with our new partners Aabar has successfully closed, securing funding for the remainder of the development program and we are seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming forward to secure their own reservations for this incredible experience.

To be here in New Mexico to witness this historic moment is the perfect end to a great month." Governor Richardson, Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Galactic future astronauts and the guests were all invited to tour the terminal hangar facility, which is nearing completion. The iconic building, meeting Gold LEED standards, will serve as the operating hub for Virgin Galactic and is expected to house up to two WhiteKnightTwos and five SpaceShipTwos, in addition to all of Virgin's astronaut preparation facilities and mission control.

Held immediately following the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS), the Spaceport America Runway Dedication marked the culmination of "Space Week" in New Mexico, and was made possible in part thanks to premier event sponsors Summit West Construction, Gerald Martin Construction Management, AECOM, Molzen-Corbin, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, of Albuquerque, NM, and the New Mexico Tourism Department. Other speakers at the event included: Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA; George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic; Patricia Hynes, Executive Director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium; and Rick Homans, Executive Director of the NMSA.

Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA, said, "With the recent signing of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 by President Obama, it is clear that our nation's future space efforts will be working even more closely than with the growing commercial space transportation industry," She added, "Innovative approaches that foster this new commercial industry will bring more competition and opportunities that will lower the costs of spaceflight and payload services for America's aerospace programs, and introduce new human space transportation systems."

The 42-inch thick spaceway is designed to support nearly every type of aircraft in the world today. It is made up of 24 inches of prepared sub-grade, followed by four inches of asphalt, and finished with a 14-inch layer of concrete. The spaceway will accommodate returning launch vehicles, fly-back rocket boosters and other space launch and training vehicles.

Spaceport America has been providing commercial launch services since 2006. The state-of-the-art launch facility is under construction near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and is expected to become fully operational in 2011. Officials at Spaceport America have been working closely with their anchor tenant Virgin Galactic and other leading aerospace firms such as Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, Armadillo Aerospace, and UP Aerospace to develop commercial spaceflight at the new facility. The economic impact of launches, tourism and new construction at Spaceport America are already delivering on its promise to the people of New Mexico.

back to top
11.10.2010 /

Exclusive Documentary Coverage of Historic Milestones on Path to Space Tourism

(WASHINGTON, D.C. / MOJAVE, CALIF. — OCTOBER 11, 2010) History was made Sunday, October 10, on the path to the launch of the first commercial spaceliner with news of the first successful glide involving the mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo, and smaller spaceship, the VSS Enterprise, which safely separated at an altitude of 40,000 feet before returning to earth. The process of reaching this milestone has been documented for the premiere of National Geographic Channel's (NGC) highly anticipated four-part series, Virgin Galactic, which is documenting the historic process and milestones leading up to the first commercial space flight.

Premiering Monday, October 18, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NGC, Virgin Galactic provides exclusive documentary coverage of maverick entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and legendary aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan as they strive to be first to make space tourism an everyday reality. Also included in the premiere episode will be the backstory of the venture, including Rutan's win of the Ansari X Prize with SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnightOne.

"This series represents what we are all about — historic drama and adventure," commented Steve Burns, NGC's executive vice president of content. "We are honored to provide people with a window into the historic work of the incredible team at Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites as well as the vision of Burt Rutan and Richard Branson, whose drive and passion promise to make space travel a reality."

Background footage, including the maiden flight of mother ship WhiteKnightTwo, and images are available at For National Geographic Channel footage, maximum 3-minute use and mandatory lower third: Courtesy NGC: Virgin Galactic is required.

For more information, visit

back to top
10.10.2010 /

VSS Enterprise achieves manned free flight from over 45,000 ft (13,700 metres) and successfully glides in 11 minutes to land at Mojave Air and Spaceport

10th October 2010, Mojave, CA. Virgin Galactic, the US company developing the world's first commercial manned space flight system and tourism business, is delighted to announce the successful completion today of the first piloted free flight of SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Enterprise. The spaceship was released from its mothership at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,700 metres).

During its first flight the spaceship was piloted by Pete Siebold, assisted by Mike Alsbury as co-pilot. The two main goals of the flight were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Other detailed objectives of the flight were successfully completed, including; verification that all systems worked prior and following the clean release of Enterprise; initial evaluation of handling and stall characteristics; qualitative evaluation of stability and control of SS2 against predictions from design and simulation work; verification of performance by evaluating the lift-to-drag ratio of the spaceship during glide flight; practice a landing approach at altitude and finally descend and land.

Preparations for the milestone flight were extensive. The WhiteKnightTwo mothership (Eve) flew 40 times including 4 captive carry flights of spaceship and mothership mated together. The most recent captive carry was on Sept 30th. The most recent solo flight was on October 5th and demonstrated that all the systems required for a free flight by the VSS Enterprise were functioning correctly without any safety issues. Commenting on the successful flight Scaled Composites pilot, Pete Siebold, said "The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders."

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, who was present during the first successful flight, added "This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin. For the first time since we seriously began the project in 2004, I watched the world's first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port and it was a great moment. Now, the sky is no longer the limit and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year."

Virgin Galactic is now well on the way to becoming the world's first commercial space line with 370 customer deposits totalling $50 million. Future commercial operations will be at Spaceport America in New Mexico where final preparations are taking place for a finished runway inauguration ceremony on Friday 22nd October 2010. National Geographic channel in the United States will be showing a documentary on the build up and preparation for the first flight of VSS Enterprise on Monday, 18 October at 10.00pm ET/PT.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic who was also present at the historic flight, added "To see the world's first manned commercial spaceship landing on a runway is a sight I always dreamed I would behold. Now, our challenge going forward will be to complete our experimental program, obtain our FAA licence and safely bring the system into service at Spaceport America, New Mexico."

back to top
07.10.2010 /

The History: The Ansari X Prize
  • Objective: to provide the catalyst for private sector innovation in the field of manned space exploration
  • Rules: private funding, design and manufacture of a vehicle capable of delivering the weight of 3 people including one actual person to sub-orbital space defined as an altitude of at least 100kms. The vehicle had to be 80% reusable and fly twice within a two week period
  • Winner: Mojave Aerospace Ventures a Paul G Allen company with Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne on October 4th 2004. Pilot Brian Binnie (see

  • The History: SpaceShipOne
  • Project funded by Paul Allen – co founder of Microsoft at an cost of approx $26m
  • Designed and built by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites in Mojave CA
  • Flew to space 3 times in 2004
  • The world's first private manned space vehicle
  • Now displayed in the Milestones of Flight Gallery at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, DC between Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis and Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1

  • The Technology
  • A completely new approach to space access for people, science and payload
  • Air (horizontal) release from the "WhiteKnight" purpose built aircraft not ground (vertical) launch - intrinsically safer and more environmentally friendly
  • All carbon composite construction (light, strong, resilient and fuel efficient)
  • Hybrid rocket motor uses benign fuel and oxidizer (same rubber and nitrous oxide used for SpaceShipOne) and is controllable – can be shut down at any time during boost phase of flight
  • Re-entry controlled aerodynamically by unique wing feathering design – heat free and carefree
  • Un-powered (glide) runway landing

  • Virgin's Involvement
  • Seeking investment opportunities since late 90's when Galactic name was registered
  • Knew of Burt Rutan's credentials through sponsorship of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer – world's most fuel efficient powered aircraft
  • Agreed with Burt Rutan and Paul Allen to invest in development and construction of second generation vehicle for commercial venture – the world's first commercial spaceline
  • Intending to order 5 SpaceShipTwo's and 3 WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft to be manufactured by The SpaceShip Company (TSC) (a Joint Venture between Scaled Composites and Virgin)
  • Mission to create environmentally benign, safe and commercially viable access to space for people and science. Space tourism early adopters provided vital proof of first available market and made project possible.

  • SpaceShipTwo
  • Status: SpaceShipTwo was unveiled on 7th December 2009, and completed its first "captive carry" test flight on 22nd March 2010; this was the start of an extensive flight test program by Scaled.
  • Uses all the same basic technology, construction and design as SpaceShipOne prototype
  • Is around twice as large as SS1 and will carry 6 passengers and 2 pilots
  • Cabin approx the size of a Falcon 900 exec jet
  • Whole fuselage used for passenger cabin – no raised "floor"
  • Large windows positioned throughout the cabin to afford maximum viewing potential for passengers
  • Planning for reclining seats to maximize cabin space in zero g and for re-entry
  • Dimensions: Wing span: 42ft. Length: 60 ft. Tail height: 18 ft (Feather down)
  • Cabin details: 6 passenger seats. 90" diameter x 12 ft long
  • Construction: 100% carbon composite
  • Propulsion: hybrid rocket motor uses benign fuel and oxidizer (the same means of propulsion as SpaceShipOne) and is controllable – can be shut down at any time during boost phase of flight
  • Power: after release from carrier aircraft, operates on internal power supply
  • Gear: Tricycle gear configuration. 2x wheeled main gear. 1x nose skid, with abrading shoe, like SpaceShipOne
  • Feathering wings for re-entry: same technology as SS1; improved aerodynamics
  • Flight simulator operational and already being used as spaceship pilot training and design refinement tool

  • Carrier Aircraft/Mothership (WhiteKnightTwo) Technical Specification
  • Status: first flight 21st December 2008. Test flight program substantially complete with over 40 successful flights including high altitude and long duration. Five of these carried SpaceShipTwo including the first glide flight.
  • Largest 100% carbon composite plane in service (Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses composite materials for about 50% of its primary structure)
  • Twin boom / fuselage construction
  • Propulsion & Power: 4 X Pratt & Whitney PW308 engines. Member of PW300 series engines
  • Gear: Quadricycle gear configuration, retractable
  • Dimensions: Wing span: 140ft (only 16 ft less than Boeing 767-300). Length: 78 ft. Tail height: 25ft
  • Performance: SS2 ferry range: U.S. coast to coast
  • Capability: A training vehicle for SS2 spaceflight – can simulate SpaceShipTwo g force profile. Both fuselages replicate SS2 and right hand cabin interior will also be identical allowing for possibility of passenger training. Unique high altitude lift aircraft potentially suitable for various payloads

  • SpaceShipTwo Flight Profile
  • G-Forces: max gx (front to back): 6g. max gz (head to toe): 3.8g
  • SS2 release: 50,000 ft
  • Planned apogee of spaceflight: at least 110 km
  • Zero-g phase –out of seat
  • Total flight time: all told approximately 2.0 hrs

  • Timeframes
  • WhiteKnightTwo commenced test program during the summer of 2008 with first flight 21 December 2008. Test program continued through 2009 and was substantially completed by the end of the year
  • Spaceship Two roll-out December 7th 2009. Test flight program commenced early 2010
  • Test flight period envisaged 18 - 24 months or longer if safety dictates. Building of first commercial vehicles will commence while test program is underway
  • Safety first, we are not in a race, we will launch only when we are content that it is safe to do so
  • We aim to fly 500 people in the first year and 50,000 in the first 10 years
  • First commercial flights planned to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

  • SpaceShipTwo Flight Stats
  • Total flight time around 2.0 hours
  • G forces: rocket boost max 3.8 g (x and z); re-entry max 6 g (x only whilst reclined)
  • Speed: supersonic within 8 seconds of rocket ignition and faster than Mach 3 within 30 seconds of rocket ignition
  • Achieving an apogee of at least 110 kms

  • The Experience
  • Plan for 3 days of preparation, medical checks, bonding, and g force acclimatization as part of flight cost
  • Carrier aircraft is able to act as a training platform with passenger cabins that replicate the spaceship
  • All passengers will be able to leave their seats and float in zero G should they wish and enjoy view of space and the earth stretching for around 1000 miles in every direction

  • Reservations
  • Accepted Deposits from over 370 individuals who have made deposits from between $20 and $200k
  • Total deposits received over $50m. Flight cost US$200k
  • Over 85,000 people from 125 countries have registered their interest in becoming a Virgin Galactic astronaut at
  • A specialist network of Virgin Galactic Accredited Space Agents has been set up around the world to provide a local reservation service (ASA details can be found on

  • Licensing
  • US regulatory framework established by 2004 Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act which empowered the Office of Commercial Space Transportation within the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate and license commercial space launch vehicles and operators.
  • Enshrined the principle of Informed Consent for space flight participants, permitting a licensed operator to carry passengers on space flights once the passengers are informed of and accept a comprehensive explanation of the risks involved.

  • Environmental Credentials
  • Air release means short rocket burn
  • Reusable spaceship - no space debris
  • The carrier aircraft uses latest highly efficient turbo fan jet engines
  • SpaceShipTwo re-entry and landing are unpowered
  • CO2 emissions per passenger on a spaceflight will be equivalent to approximately 60% of a per passenger return commercial London/New York flight. Around 70% of the spaceflight CO2 emissions come from the carrier aircraft. This is a clean spaceship!
  • SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft will provide space access, to paying tourism passengers and to scientists for research, with an incomparably smaller environmental impact, lower cost and greater flexibility than anything that has gone before. We need space but we need better access to it.

  • back to top
    22.03.2010 /

    World's First Commercial Spaceship Takes Inaugural Flight
    Mojave Air and Spaceport, Mojave, California

    Virgin Galactic announced today that its commercial manned spaceship, VSS Enterprise, this morning successfully completed its first "captive carry" test flight, taking off at 07.05 am (PST) from Mojave Air and Spaceport, California.

    The spaceship was unveiled to the public for the first time on December 7th 2009 and named by Governors Schwarzenegger and Richardson. VSS Enterprise remained attached to its unique WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, for the duration of the 2 hours 54 minutes flight, achieving an altitude of 45,000ft (13716 metres).

    Both vehicles are being developed for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, by Mojave based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne which in 2004 claimed the $10m Ansari X prize as the world's first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic's new vehicles share much of the same basic design but are being built to carry six fare paying passengers on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space.

    Virgin Galactic has already taken around $45m in deposits for spaceflight reservations from over 330 people wanting to experience space for themselves. The first flight of VMS Enterprise is another major milestone in an exhaustive flight testing programme, which started with the inaugural flight of VMS Eve in 2008 and is at the heart of Virgin Galactic's commitment to safety.

    Commenting on the historic flight, Burt Rutan said: "This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams. The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program."

    Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic added: "Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt and his team have developed for us. It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality. Today was another major step along that road and a testament to US engineering and innovation."

    The VSS Enterprise test flight programme will continue though 2010 and 2011, progressing from captive carry to independent glide and then powered flight, prior to the start of commercial operations.

    back to top

    WhiteKnightTwo, launch vehicle for SpaceShipTwo, heralds a new era in aerospace fuel efficiency, performance and versatility.

    Mojave Air and Spaceport,
    California July 28th 2008

    Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceShipOne designer, Burt Rutan, today pulled back the hangar doors on the new WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft that will ferry SpaceShipTwo and thousands of private astronauts, science packages and payload on the first stage of the Virgin Galactic sub-orbital space experience.

    The rollout represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic's quest to launch the world's first private, environmentally benign, space access system for people, payload and science.

    Christened "EVE" in honor of Sir Richard's mother, who performed the official naming ceremony, WK2 is both visually remarkable and represents ground-breaking aerospace technology. It is the world's largest all carbon composite aircraft and many of its component parts have been built using composite materials for the very first time. At 140 ft, the wing spar is the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured.

    Driven by a demanding performance specification set by Virgin Galactic, WK2 has a unique heavy lift, high altitude capability and an open architecture driven design which provides for maximum versatility in the weight, mass and volume of its payload potential. It has the power, strength and maneuverability to provide for pre space-flight, positive G force and zero G astronaut training as well as a lift capability which is over 30% greater than that represented by a fully crewed SpaceShipTwo. The vehicle has a maximum altitude over 50,000 ft and its U.S. coast-to-coast range will allow the spaceship to be ferried on long duration flights.

    An all carbon composite vehicle of this size represents a giant leap for a material technology that has already been identified as a key contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful, economic and efficient available, WK2 is a mold breaker in carbon efficiency and the epitome of 21st century aerospace design and technology.

    The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. WK2 will be able to support up to four daily space flights, is able to carry out both day and night time operations and is equipped with a package of highly advanced avionics.

    Large numbers of VIP's, media and more than 100 fully signed-up future Virgin Galactic astronauts flew into Mojave for the rollout onboard a new Airbus A320 aircraft specially chartered from Virgin America, the youngest and most efficient US domestic airline, which launched to great acclaim in 2007.

    Rutan's Scaled Composites facility has been strictly out of bounds whilst design and construction has been underway, but guests today were additionally given a tantalizing preview of SpaceShipTwo, clearly visible but heavily shrouded and well on its way to completion, in the smaller of Scaled's two hangars awaiting its own rollout in 2009. This will be scheduled once WK2 is at the appropriate stage in its extensive test program, which has already begun with ground tests; it is expected to take its first flight in the fall of 2008. The flight test program will be comprehensive even before SpaceShipTwo is carried as a payload for the first time in 2009.

    Commenting on the rollout, Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites said:

    "WhiteKnightTwo represents the apogee of the application of carbon composites to aerospace and all of us at Scaled are tremendously excited at the capabilities of the Mothership for SpaceShipTwo. I believe the vehicle will be developed and sold for a variety of launch applications beyond the initial requirements of our launch customer, Virgin Galactic. We have set up a new business jointly with Virgin, The Spaceship Company (TSC), to develop these vehicles and we very much hope that its efficiency will herald a wake up call to the aerospace industry and the necessity of using new materials and technologies in the future. "

    Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic added:

    "As usual, Burt and the Scaled team have created a beauty and this is a very proud day for us all. The rollout of WhiteKnightTwo takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this most ambitious of projects is not only for real but is making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation.

    Virgin Galactic is central to our ambition at Virgin to become the world's leading group in the operation of energy and environmentally efficient transportation, in the air, on the ground and in space. We arrived here this morning on an aircraft operated by Virgin America, who run the most fuel efficient commercial fleet in the US, to roll out what by most definitions, is the most energy efficient aircraft in history. We are naming it EVE after my Mother, Eve Branson but also because it represents a first and a new beginning, the chance for our ever growing group of future astronauts and other scientists and payload specialists to see our world in a completely new light. I for one can't wait!"

    back to top

    29.04.2008 /

    Today The Royal Aeronautical Society, The Royal Air Force and Virgin Galactic launched 'MISSION VIRGIN GALACTIC' – a truly innovative National Schools Competition.

    Mission Virgin Galactic will be open to all 11 to 14 year old students (Key Stage 3) across the UK and has been designed with the backing of education experts to fit within and complement the national curriculum. The aim of the competition is to inspire pupils in the areas of science, maths, technology and engineering in a fun and exciting way.

    Working in teams of four to six pupils, the challenge is to design a marketable product that demonstrates one or more of the science, technology or engineering principles used in the Virgin Galactic space tourism programme.

    And the grand prize...the winning team and its teacher will be flown to the US as guests of Virgin Galactic where they will enjoy a tour of the Mojave spaceport and spend time chatting and learning from the engineers who have built WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. The winning team will get the chance to witness history in the making by getting the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a flight of SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceship. The team will be accompanied by Sir Richard Branson and have the chance to ask him first hand why he believes that one day space travel will be open to all.

    Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic commented: "I am delighted Virgin Galactic are working on this schools competition with the RAF and the Royal Aeronautical Society. Mission Virgin Galactic sets out to reinvigorate interest in the sheer excitement of recent developments in engineering and their context to new technologies in aerospace and transportation generally. We have to find solutions to the issues this planet faces and it will only be through a new generation of enthusiastic and environmentally conscious young engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists that we will achieve it. Hopefully, the lure of one day going to space can help to spur that spirit."

    Throughout history prizes and competitions have been used to ignite the imaginations of nations. There have been many, many times in history that private sector companies and governments have put up prizes to encourage development in many areas. The automobile industry was encouraged to grow through inducements by The Chicago Herald Tribune. The first crossing of the Channel and the Atlantic by plane was greatly encouraged by The Daily Mail prize. And the Spitfire was the result of the Schneider Trophy.

    During these times the young people of the nations involved were fascinated by the technology and the characters involved in making these dreams reality. The RAS, the RAF and Virgin Galactic hope that through Mission Virgin Galactic young people within British schools will come to realise the exciting realities that are achieved through developments and expertise in science, technology and maths. It is hoped that by using the birth of a new era in space travel in a fun and innovative way that this competition will ignite the imagination of 11 to 14 year olds across the UK.

    The judges of Mission Virgin Galactic will be looking for creativity and innovation and as a result want to ensure that students realise the wide scope of the competition. As long as their product idea touches on one of the principles involved in the Virgin Galactic spaceflight it will be eligible. It could be a toy or a game, something for use in the house, a hi-tech gadget or even something a Virgin Galactic astronaut could use at the spaceport or during a flight. The possibilities are endless.

    Through everyone can join in whether pupils or teachers at a school who may not have entered a team or the 'young-at-heart' parents at home who wish they could enter! Everyone is permitted to sign up as a Galactic Knight and enjoy the interactive, fun and informative areas of the website.

    Supporter, Actor - Ewan McGregor, congratulated the team on the launch of Mission Virgin Galactic: "This is a fantastic way of engaging school children in space travel and making all of the various academic disciplines they will have to call upon to compete exciting and fun. I will definitely be signing myself and my children up as Galactic Knights and can't wait to see what product wins at the grand final!"

    2008/2009 will be the first year of Mission Virgin Galactic with the hope that by 2011 all UK schools will be signed up and be competing for this amazing prize. Going forward the plan will be to extend the competition to schools across America, Europe and the rest of the world with a Grand Draw (from all the winning teams in the pervious years) eventually being held to give the chance of a winning team to go to space! For more information please go to to top


    SPACEPORT SWEDEN AND VIRGIN GALACTIC PROGRESS PLANS FOR SPACE JOURNEYS Senior representatives from Spaceport Sweden and Virgin Galactic presented today, at a press conference at Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden, their latest progress towards commercial spaceflights for private space tourists. The press conference was opened by Dr. Olle Norberg, the initiator and chairman of Spaceport Sweden. After had welcomed everyone he handed over to Mr. Sven Grahn, senior advisor at Swedish Space Corporation, who presented his work related to the establishment of Spaceport Sweden. Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic (VG), talked about the challenge and necessity of designing totally new and energy efficient techniques to access space, which will help to transform the applications of space at a time when civilisation needs all the technological help it can get. He also explained VG's vision of not only offering spaceflights to the general public but also of developing a launch vehicle that could be part of a longer term development programme involving space science, payload deployment and potentially other applications yet to be defined. A significant factor of working together with Spaceport Sweden is that, in common with Spaceport America in New Mexico which will be our primary operating base, they can, as and when we are able to operate outside the US, offer much more that just a spaceport for space tourism, said Mr. Will Whitehorn. I'm not just thinking about the unique adventures one can enjoy in the Kiruna area, but also the long experience that Spaceport Sweden has in space science with sounding rockets, (i.e.. suborbital flight performed by the Swedish Space Corporation from Esrange Space Center). They have been in this business since 1966 and have the experience, the knowledge and the infrastructure needed to launch and communicate with experiments performed in space in real time. This really matches our vision of making further use of the new technology developed by Burt Rutan at Scaled Composites in California. Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director of Virgin Galactic, talked about the size and potential of the space tourism market which has justified VG's faith and investment in developing the air and space vehicles and establishing the worlds first commercial spaceline. VG's customer numbers continue to grow strongly, now around 250 firm reservations and well over $30 million dollars in deposits, with another 85000 people having registered an interest in flying with VG in the future. The customers come from a broad range of backgrounds, they cover a wide age group, and hail from 30 countries. 80 of them have started their preparations for the space flight by climbing into a centrifuge and have effectively "gone to space". They experienced 3,5 G's on the way up and 6 G's on the way down. Invited media spoke to a number of Virgin Galactic's future Astronauts making a special visit to Kiruna. Their programme was devised by the ICEHOTEL, the partner in Spaceport Sweden responsible for arranging all the unique adventures that come with a visit in the land of the northern lights and the midnight sun. For more information please contact: Dr. Olle Norberg, chairman of Spaceport Sweden Phone: 46 980 720 24 or 46 70 587 20 42 E-mail: Ms Susan Newsam Virgin Galactic Telephone 44 207 447 1926 E-mail: Susan.newsam@virgingalactic.comback to top


    Virgin Galactic herald's 'The Year of the Spaceship with the unveiling of the designs of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. Virgin Galactic today unveiled the design of its new, environmentally benign, space launch system based on the X Prize winning technology of SpaceShipOne, which successfully flew into space for the third time in October 2004 and won the $10m Ansari X Prize. The construction of the White Knight Two (WK2) mothership, or carrier aircraft, is now very close to completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave, CA and is expected to begin flight testing in the summer of 2008. It is the world's largest, all carbon composite aircraft; it has a unique high altitude lift capacity, capable of launching SpaceShipTwo and its eight astronauts into sub-orbital space flight. The WK2 mothership is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines which are amongst the most powerful, economic and efficient engines available. The WK2 mothership has also been designed to be capable of lifting other payload and launching it into space. Whilst the two vehicles comprising the space launch system have been under construction, Virgin Galactic's cadre of future astronauts has continued to grow strongly to well in excess of 200 individuals with around 85,000 registrations of interest to fly. Astronaut orientation for spaceflight is progressing well and already 80 of SpaceShipTwo's first passengers have been through medical assessment and centrifuge training at the NASTAR facility in Philadelphia. Commenting on the unveiling, Burt Rutan, CEO of Scaled Composites, said: "Virgin Galactic produced a demanding output specification for the world's first private human and payload space launch system. This required us to produce a safe but flexible design capable of multiple applications in new market sectors. I am confident that these vehicles, now in an advanced stage of construction, will achieve just that. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole team at Scaled Composites. "Looking up way up!" is an expression we have shared since the X Prize began and now we are all excited that this year the dream will start to become a very tangible reality for everyone involved." Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic, added: "The designs of both the mothership and the new spaceship are absolutely beautiful and surpass any expectations for the future of commercial spaceflight that we had when first registering the name Virgin Galactic in 1999. Burt and his team have done a fantastic job and I am also delighted with the wonderful vision that Foster and Partners, working with URS, have shown in the final designs for Spaceport America in New Mexico. Finally, we are all very excited about the prospect of being able to develop a bio-fuel solution for the space launch system and we are looking forward to working with Pratt and Whitney and Virgin Fuels to trial an appropriate bio mix for the PW308A engines that will be powering our new carrier aircraft." Virgin Galactic will make further announcements regarding the progress of the launch system, development of its markets, the test flying program and start of commercial operations at Spaceport America in due course.back to top


    Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, successfully completed a space flight training course today at the NASTAR Center, in Southampton, PA, which is the National Aerospace Training and Research Center. He undertook this training in preparation for a flight aboard SpaceShipTwo, the suborbital vehicle his company Virgin Galactic is developing along with Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites. Commenting on the NASTAR Center space flight training, Sir Richard said, "It was an amazing experience. Due to the flight simulation combined with the G forces created by the STS-400 centrifuge, I really felt like I was launching into space. I am glad many of the Founder astronauts got to do this, because it really does get us all prepared and excited about the real thing, and alleviates a lot of the apprehension people naturally have about whether they can handle a space launch or not. Now I know that I and the Founders can concentrate on the primary features of a Virgin Galactic space flight, which are the magnificent view of Earth and the weightless experience." Several other participants from Virgin Galactic trained along with Branson, including his son Sam; Will Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic President; Alan Watts, who earned a flight aboard SpaceShipTwo through cashing in his Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer "Flying Club" miles; and Professor James Lovelock, the scientist who created the concept of Gaia Theory, that the biosphere of Planet Earth constitutes one great living entity. His ground breaking work has laid the foundations of much modern climate change theory. All of them successfully completed the training. About 60 of the first 100 Virgin Galactic spaceflight customers, known as Founders, have gone through the 2-day NASTAR Center space flight training course. All of them found the experience worthwhile, and several laughed or whooped during their space launch simulation. The founders expressed many enthusiastic comments about their training: "Absolutely fantastic", "Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.", "Wow! I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world! Very Cool.", "A wickedly realistic experience", and "NASTAR Center is the Best." "We are proud to have the opportunity to train Sir Richard and the other Galactic personnel and customers for their space flights," said William Mitchell, CEO of Environmental Tectonics Corporation (ETC), the parent company of the NASTAR Center. "This is the beginning of a new era in space activities. The NASTAR Center intends to be an important part of creating the private space industry in the coming years, a time in which personal spaceflight will play an increasing role and manned flight will continue to evolve." Photo by Mark Greenbergback to top


    Foster Partners to design the world's first spaceport The Foster Partners and URS team has won an international competition to build the first private spaceport in the world - The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Building - it was announced today. The sinuous shape of the building in the desert-like landscape of New Mexico and its interior spaces seek to capture the drama and mystery of space flight itself, articulating the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists. Organised into a highly efficient and rational plan, the Spaceport has been designed to relate to the dimensions of the spacecraft. There is also a careful balance between accessibility and privacy. Visitors and astronauts enter the building via a deep channel cut into the landscape. The retaining walls form an exhibition space that documents the history of the region and its settlers, alongside a history of space exploration. Designed to have minimal embodied carbon and few additional energy requirements, the scheme has been designed to achieve the prestigious LEED Platinum accreditation. The low-lying form is dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass and natural light enters via skylights. Lord Foster said: "We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the dynamic team chosen to design the worlds first space terminal. This technically complex building will not only provide a dramatic experience for the astronauts and visitors, but will set an ecologically sound model for future Spaceport facilities."back to top


    Scaled Composites report that during a routine cold flow Nitrous Oxide test, an explosion occurred which tragically killed three of their employees. It is confirmed that the investigation will be carried out by the California Occupational Safety & Health Administration as an industrial accident. Virgin Galactic sends its deepest sympathies to all those involved and reiterates its commitment to the project and technology.back to top


    New York, NY, June 21st, 2007: Virgin Galactic announced today that George T. Whitesides, Executive Director of the National Space Society, has been appointed Senior Advisor to the company. Virgin Galactic is on track to become the world's first spaceline.

    Founded by Sir Richard Branson, the company was established to undertake the challenge of making private space travel available to everyone. Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic, said, "George is recognized as a leader in the U.S. space policy and business communities, and has been a strong advocate for the developing personal spaceflight industry.

    We are pleased to have him join our team in this capacity." As Senior Advisor, Whitesides will provide guidance on regulation, markets and government relations, as well as provide general advocacy for the commercial spaceflight industry and the company.

    His appointment strengthens the company's presence in the United States, in preparation for the transfer of Virgin Galactic's operations to the US. Whitesides remarked, "Virgin Galactic is leading the way to commercial space flight for the public.The next few years will be a critical period for the industry, and I look forward to helping Virgin Galactic make history." He will continue his duties as Executive Director of the National Space Society during his appointment as Senior Advisor to the company. Whitesides began his career at Orbital Sciences Corporation, a leading manufacturer of space vehicles and satellites. As Vice President of Zero Gravity Corporation, he helped launch that company's weightless flight service, now a thriving space tourism business. As the Executive Director of the National Space Society, he leads the largest public space organization focused on human spaceflight. He earned a bachelor's degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University, and a master's degree in remote sensing and geographic information systems from Cambridge University in England.

    Virgin Galactic has collected over $25 million dollars of customer deposits and plans to begin flying private passengers as early as 2009.

    The company has partnered with Burt Rutan to commercialize the revolutionary spaceship technologies pioneered during Scaled Composites' successful campaign to win the X PRIZE.back to top


    In a further exciting step towards full commercial operations, Virgin Galactic and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority have signed a Memorandum of Understanding setting out the terms under which Virgin Galactic would lease hangar and terminal facilities for its operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico. This represents a significant commitment by Virgin Galactic to be the anchor tenant at Spaceport America, and to help New Mexico grow a thriving new industry. For full details please see the full press release: Virgin Galactic and New Mexico Spaceport Authority Sign Milestone MOA for Spaceport America Lease LAS CRUCES -- Virgin Galactic today signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) setting out the terms under which Virgin Galactic would lease approximately 83,400 square feet of hangar and terminal facilities at Spaceport America, announced Rick Homans, chairman of the NMSA and Cabinet Secretary of the NM Economic Development Department. "This agreement is a historic milestone for Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America," said Homans. "It represents months of negotiation and the outline of a substantive partnership to launch the commercial space industry." "Virgin Galactic is looking forward to bringing our base of operations to Spaceport America and our world headquarters to New Mexico," said Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. "This agreement represents a significant commitment by Virgin Galactic to be the anchor tenant at Spaceport America, and to help New Mexico grow a thriving new industry around commercial space companies." The MOA was signed today at New Mexico State University at 4 p.m. Over the next few months, the MOA will be developed into a legal lease agreement. A legal lease agreement with an "anchor tenant" such as Virgin Galactic is one of three conditions that the NMSA must meet before it can use $100 million of state capital outlay. The other two conditions include a bona fide cost estimate of $225 million or less for an operational spaceport, and receipt of a site operator's license from the Federal Aviation Administration. The MOA was approved by Virgin Galactic's Board of Directors in New York City on March 13th, and it has been reviewed in detail by members of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, who authorized Homans to sign the document on the Authority's behalf. Key components of the Agreement are: 1. Virgin Galactic will locate its primary launch and operational activities at Spaceport America and its global headquarters in New Mexico. 2. The NMSA will construct common facilities at Spaceport America that will include runways, emergency facilities, fuel storage and delivery, perimeter security, restaurant and concessions, and visitor viewing areas. Tenants will pay User Fees to use these facilities. These fees have yet to be established. 3. Virgin Galactic will lease facilities at Spaceport America, including a dedicated terminal and hangar, as well as state-of-the-art medical facilities, mission control, staff clubhouse, and office accommodations for Virgin Galactic personnel. 4. In addition to the lease payments for its own premises at the spaceport, Virgin Galactic will pay the NMSA a ground lease for land it uses, as well as User Fees for its use of the common facilities at the spaceport. 5. The NMSA will establish a Spaceport Advisory Committee, consisting of Virgin Galactic and other tenants, to advise and work with the NMSA on operations, budget, capital improvements, maintenance, marketing and branding. Homans said the NMSA will build and own the Virgin Galactic facilities, and then lease them to Virgin Galactic in return for payments of approximately $27.5 million over 20 years which would equate to a blended rental rate of approximately $16.50 per square foot. During the MOA negotiations, the Authority was assisted by Jacobs Consultancy of Burlingame, California. Spaceport America is a landmark project that will be built in Sierra County, 45 miles northeast of Las Cruces. According to economic forecasts by NMSU and Futron Corporation, Spaceport America may spur up to 5,000 new jobs and up to $1 billion in new revenue in the State. Spaceport America is scheduled to open for business in late 2009 or early 2010. About Virgin Galactic Virgin Galactic is the world's first spaceline. Virgin Galactic was established by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group to undertake the challenge of making private space travel available to everyone. Virgin Galactic will own and operate privately built spaceships, based on the history-making SpaceShipOne. These spaceships, which are currently under construction in Mojave, California, will allow private sub-orbital space travel for the first time in history. In addition to Virgin Galactic's $27.5 million in lease payments towards the development of Spaceport America, the company is currently investing over $200 million dollars in the development of the new SpaceShipTwo system and bringing it to New Mexico. The company also believes that the system and derivatives of it in the future may be capable of a range of scientific and commercial payload applications. Such applications would widen the scope to develop a number of business opportunities in addition to space tourism.back to top


    NASA & Virgin Galactic to Explore Future Cooperation NASA and Virgin Galactic announce a ground breaking and exciting agreement between the two parties to collaborate in future manned space technology. In particular, NASA confirms its willingness to make available to Virgin Galactic the unique capabilities and world class facilities within the NASA Ames Research Centre in California. The Memorandum of Understanding is exploratory in nature; it deals primarily with future technology cooperation and does not include, for example, any agreement to carry NASA astronauts on Virgin Galactic vehicles The major benefits of this agreement are likely to emerge in the technologies that evolve out of Virgin Galactic's current sub-orbital project, but it is of immediate significance for the following reasons: This is a first and formal recognition of the mutual respect and close relationship that has developed between NASA and Virgin Galactic. It is a ringing acknowledgement for the emerging commercial manned space industry and for Virgin Galactic in particular from the world's premier space agency. The access to NASA Ames' capabilities and facilities further strengthens Virgin Galactic's leading market position and will support its twin objectives of safety and commercial viability. This is good news not just for Virgin Galactic but for our customers, our suppliers and for the industry as a whole.back to top


    Virgin Galactic was the main attraction at Wired Magazine's NextFest annual technology and innovations exhibition which was held in New York (29 September to 1 October 2006). Over a hundred individual exhibitors presented unique inventions, prototypes, designs and interactive experiences. Sir Richard Branson unveiled the conceptual interior of SpaceShipTwo to the worlds press in a blaze of media coverage. An exact replica of SpaceShipOne hung directly above the VG representation of SS2, highlighting Virgin's investment and commitment to our project. A packed press conference listened to presentations by Will Whitehorn (VG President) and Stephen Attenborough (Commercial Director) and watched an impressive new animation which gave an insight into the Virgin Galactic 'experience'. Richard then took part in a Panel question and answer session before taking part in the official NextFest Opening Ceremony along with Mayor Bloomberg and the latest shuttle astronauts. The team hosted a drinks reception for many of our customers and various VIPs including Buzz Aldrin, Brian Binnie, Philippe Starck and Governor Pataki, in front of the SS2 mock-up and SS1 replica. We were also very pleased to be able to entertain our newly accredited Space Agents from the US (Virtuoso) and Australia and we are looking forward to working with them closely as the project evolves. Following the worldwide coverage,including NBC's Today show, we have had some wonderful feedback from our customers who are now eagerly looking forward to the unveiling of the real spaceship.back to top

    26.01.2006 / SPACEPORT SWEDEN

    Spaceport Sweden signed an agreement with Virgin Galactic that will give future customers the opportunity to fly from a European base. The official inauguration of Spaceport Sweden took place at Kiruna Airport on Friday 26th January 2006 and was attended by Mrs. Maud Olofsson, Minister for Enterprise Energy as well as Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. Virgin Galactic held the Press Conference in front of the conceptual interior of SS2 and thrilled the attending media and politicians with a series of presentations, DVDs followed by a dynamic question and answer session. The agreement allows the parties to work together on an initial study on the regulatory and operational requirements for launching the Virgin Galactic Spaceships on suborbital flights from Spaceport Sweden. The goal is that the study will result in an operational agreement whereby Spaceport Sweden would be the first spaceport outside the United States which Virgin Galactic can use for flight campaigns. Areas of work to be developed include scientific confirmation of the possibility of operating the first ever spaceflights into the Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) and payload deployment and scientific experiments from Spaceport Sweden. The conditions at Spaceport Sweden are ideal, using the combined expertise of several Kiruna-based Swedish companies whose successful development has earned them international respect: the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), ICEHOTEL, LFV Group (Kiruna Airport) and Kiruna's business-development company Progressum. Their reputation for service consistently attracts attention with regards to aerospace operations, testing and tourism. "Spaceport Sweden is very interesting for us thanks to their expertise in space technology and innovative thinking, as well as the fact that Kiruna can offer unique experiences such as the northern lights and the ICEHOTEL during winter and the midnight sun during summer" said Mr. Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic has already signed their first Swedish customer who will become Sweden's second astronaut, first space tourist and potentially the first Swede flying into space from Swedish ground. Mr Bengt Söderqvist was born in 1938 in Tvärskog, a small village near Kalmar in southern Sweden. He has lived on the Turks and Caicos Island (southwest of the Bahamas) for many years, where he has been working as a surveyor for a pioneer development company since 1966. "When I understood that I had the chance to see the Earth from space myself, I took that chance and here I am", stated Mr Söderqvist. The first flight from Spaceport Sweden will take place after Virgin Galactic has established regular commercial operations in the United States and agreed the necessary procedures to both export the technology and approvals to operate in Swedish airspace. Thereafter space trips from Kiruna can start. The first purpose built commercial spaceport is currently being developed in New Mexico and has already signed an agreement with Virgin Galactic as a launch customer. "Spaceport Sweden is additional confirmation of the worldwide interest and commitment to commercial space travel," said Rick Homans, cabinet secretary for economic development in the State of New Mexico. "While Spaceport America in New Mexico will be Virgin's world headquarters and primary operating base, having a global network of spaceports for showcase launches will allow Virgin to expand its business and, therefore, help to support the commercial operations here in New Mexico. Spaceport America welcomes Spaceport Sweden and looks forward to a strong partnership in the years to come," Mr. Homans concluded. "Kiruna has been involved in space business since almost 50 years, and the town has evolved to a recognized Space City on the world map", said Dr. Olle Norberg, Head of Esrange Space Center (SSC) and Spaceport Sweden. "To take new steps into the future of space activities is very natural for us and we very much look forward to work together with Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America", Dr. Norberg concluded.back to top


    At press conferences in London and New Mexico, officials from Virgin Galactic and from the State of New Mexico announced that they had reached an historic agreement which will see the building of a $200m spaceport in the southern part of the state on a 27 square mile area of state land. Virgin Galactic has agreed to locate its world headquarters and Mission Control in New Mexico and strongly believes that the new spaceport will offer fledgling astronauts an experience that will be truly out of this world. "When Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne won the X PRIZE in October 2004, we knew the new space industry had arrived," said Secretary Rick Homans. "And when Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin would use that same technology to fly paying passengers into space, we realized that our most important job was to convince Virgin Galactic to come to New Mexico and launch the personal spaceflight industry. This announcement is a convergence of dreams and we are proud that Virgin will be New Mexico's anchor tenant at the world's most exciting space tourism location. " "New Mexico has worked hard to bring us to their exciting new spaceport facility," stated Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. "The State has several factors that make it an ideal operations base: climate, free airspace, low population density, high altitude, and stunning scenery. Our team was highly impressed by the professionalism and the competitive pitch the state and its advisors developed. We look forward to working together to make the "Final Frontier" a reality for tens of thousands of pioneering space tourists. Our activities will prove the commercial viability and excellent safety technology behind private personal spaceflight and give birth to a new industry in New Mexico."back to top

    27.07.2005 / THE SPACESHIP COMPANY

    Today at the EAA Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin, Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan announced their signing of an agreement to form The Spaceship Company - jointly owned by Virgin and Scaled. This new aerospace production company will manufacture launch aircraft, spaceships and support equipment and market them to spaceline operators, including the launch customer, Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic has placed orders for five spaceships and two launch aircraft with options on further systems, thus securing the exclusive use of the systems for the initial 18 months of commercial passenger operations. The Spaceship Company plan to make spaceflight affordable for the masses and to demonstrate the commercial viability of manned space exploration. Burt Rutan commented "I am very excited to have agreed terms on which we can now move forward to develop the world's first commercial, passenger-carrying spaceships".back to top

    04.10.2004 / HISTORY CREATED!

    A new astronaut was created today, and at the same time he created history. Brian Binnie piloted Paul Allen's SpaceShipOne on its third trip into space, and its second Ansari X Prize qualifying flight. The flight was successful, which meant that Mojave Aerospace Ventures are able to claim the $10m prize. Something that many thought an impossible dream when it was announced 8 years ago. Brian Binnie is more used to flying the mother ship White Knight, than he is SpaceShipOne, but today, he and Mike Melvill traded places. Mike took the controls of White Knight to fly Brian up to around 55,000 feet, where SpaceShipOne was released, before rocketing up to a record-breaking height of 368,000 feet in just over a minute. The flight was very successful in every respect. The 'victory roll' experienced by Mike Melvill on his previous flight seemed to be under control, and the hands off re-entry made possible by the innovative 'feather' design was smooth and successful.back to top

    29.09.2004 / ANSARI X PRIZE

    The first pair of Virgin Galactic astronaut wings were awarded today by Alex Tai of Virgin Galactic to Mike Melvill after he returned from 330,000 feet having just successfully completed the first of two Ansari X-Prize qualifying flights. Virgin Galactic were sponsoring SpaceShipOne's attempt to win the Ansari X-Prize as part of their overall deal to license the technology of SpaceShipOne for the purposes of space tourism. Alex is one of Virgin Atlantic's most experienced pilots, and has been a key figure in bringing Virgin Galactic to fruition after having worked with Burt Rutan on other projects over many years.back to top


    Today at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London's West End, Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan made their announcement to the world's media that Virgin Galactic was now in a position to commence a programme of work that would result in the world's first affordable space tourist flights in 2 to 3 years time. Sir Richard said: "Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Burt throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday morning signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne's technology to build the world's first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service."back to top

    30.11.1999 / A NEW VISION, A NEW IDENTITY

    Design guru, Philippe Starck has inspired an exciting new identity for Virgin Galactic to reflect the vision of the project.

    Using the amazing and beautiful image of an iris, he allows people to reflect on the basic human instinct to push boundaries and explore. Philippe Starck explains: "The curiosity and adventure of the human spirit exists in the vision of a human eye, from today, through millions of years of evolution, right back to the beginning of mankind. The nebulous iris represents the infinite possibilities of this endeavour and signifies our opportunity to look back at earth from space with our own eyes for the first time. The eye's pupil incorporates an eclipse, the dawning of something new, something unique but accessible. Something far, but near."

    The new visual was identity was created by Philippe Starck in conjunction with leading design agency GBH Design Ltd. Mark Bonner, Creative Director at GBH Design Ltd, added: "It is an honor and a privilege to work within one of the most exciting ventures in the world today. Our aim is not just to create something that represents the opportunity for an ordinary person to travel into space and to look back at the planet where we all live, but also to represent the incredible spirit of human endeavor that continues to push us all forward". Richard Branson and the Virgin Galactic team feel that the new logo looks towards the future of space travel rather than using imagery more in the style with a wonderful but bygone age.

    Sir Richard Branson said: "Philippe has come up with the most fantastic logo, which encapsulates our vision of the future. When I look at the logo I am reminded of childlike awe. I believe it represents all those who will watch and be a part of the growth of this amazing new commercial aviation sector. Whether they be six or sixty, all will see and believe that a new chapter in the story of space flight has begun.

    WhiteKnightTwo will be unveiled in 2008, with 12-18 months of test flights before we commence our commercial flights.back to top

    Privacy policy