Branson Signs Up Formula 1 Racers for Space Tourist Flights

rubens_barrichello
Formula One racer Rubens Barrichello

Barrichello to go to space with Virgin Galactic
SportNetwork.net

The Virgin logos on the Brawn GP BGP 001 cars have been replaced this weekend with Virgin Galactic logos, Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism venture. Having already signed up some 300 passengers, Rubens Barrichello has paid his $200,000 (£136,000/150,000) and, once the VMS and VSS (Virgin MotherShip and Virgin SpaceShip) become operational, will officially become an astronaut.

At a press conference in Bahrain yesterday, Rubens Barrichello was handed his ticket by Branson, and was joined by Formula One World Champion Niki Lauda, who will be training to become a space pilot for Virgin Galactic.

Barrichello said:

“For me it is such a pleasure to be here and involved in Virgin Galactic because since I was a kid, it’s a very, very clear feeling that I have always wanted to go to space. I became a racing driver, which involves getting a fast car, but I want to see up there how fast it goes. When I saw the project coming I asked if I could be a part of it, and Richard has given me access to it as there are a lot of people who wanted to be in there. So I am proud to be there. For me it is going to be such an experience. I am very encouraged and I have no more words – it is really kind to be a part of it.”

In a press release, Branson added:

“I have always said I would love to have a Virgin car on the circuit. I am thrilled to be involved with people as skilled as Ross Brawn and his team. Over the years Virgin has had the great honour of partnering with technical geniuses – I truly believe Ross Brawn is to F1 what Burt Rutan is to space travel with Virgin Galactic. We are very confident that the Virgin Car driven by Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello will go from strength to strength this season and look forward to a great future for the Brawn GP team.”

Branson also said he would like to build a spaceport in the Middle East.

We have been convinced for some time that, with the right regulatory clearances, the Middle East offers exactly the right criteria for Virgin Galactic space launches, not just for space tourism but for science research and small satellite launch. I am pleased to say that we are in discussions with a small number of investor groups in the Gulf, interested in bringing manned space flight, space based scientific projects and a transformational satellite launch system to the region.

VIRGIN GALACTIC PRESS RELEASE

STATEMENT BY SIR RICHARD BRANSON

“We are delighted that this weekend’s sponsor of the Brawn GP team cars is Virgin Galactic…two flagship technology projects coming together in Bahrain for what promises to be the most exciting race of an already breathtaking season. Virgin Galactic is the leading technology project for the Virgin brand, developing a space launch system fit for the 21st century. The principles on which we are operating are based on establishing environmentally benign space launch using the very latest carbon composite materials combined with new techniques and technologies such as air launch, hybrid rocket motors and sustainable fuels, all of which will dramatically lower the energy and cost requirements for access to space. Transforming the safety, economics and environmental impact of space launch will in turn allow the next generation of private individuals, scientists and satellite technologies to reap the enormous and essential benefits that space offers us here on earth – literally making Space for Earth.

Virgin Galactic is using revolutionary but proven technology and is on the final stretch of its development phase before we launch the commercial operation. Our new carrier aircraft Virgin Mothership Eve, the world’s largest and most fuel efficient all composite aviation vehicle, is now well into its test flight programme and is performing beautifully. It will be carrying and launching SpaceShipTwo later this year.

We have established and proven without doubt that our first market “space tourism” is a large and vibrant one which will in itself make this business a commercial success. We now have around 300 future astronauts from over 40 countries including several from the Gulf States. However we have not yet signed up Bahrain’s very first astronaut, although judging by the interest I’ve seen in the past 24 hours, I have a feeling we will done that by the end of the Grand Prix on Sunday!

Construction of our future US Headquarters at Spaceport America in New Mexico, designed by Lord Foster, is now underway and will provide a base from which we can extend our spaceflight operation to locations around the world perhaps following a similar model to that which has been so successfully developed by Formula One. We have been convinced for some time that, with the right regulatory clearances, the Middle East offers exactly the right criteria for Virgin Galactic space launches, not just for space tourism but for science research and small satellite launch. I am pleased to say that we are in discussions with a small number of investor groups in the Gulf, interested in bringing manned space flight, space based scientific projects and a transformational satellite launch system to the region.

Our space launch system designer is Burt Rutan, who is to aviation what Ross Brawn is to Formula One….they are both brilliant engineers using new materials technologies and cutting edge ideas to change the face of their respective industries forever. That’s the reason Virgin has backed Burt to build Virgin Galactic’s revolutionary spaceship and it is the reason we are backing Ross Brawn to create one of the greatest teams in Formula One. The world is in a race to find technology solutions before the pressures of population and planet overtake our ability to achieve what history tells us we are capable of and it is people like Burt Rutan and Ross Brawn who must be supported in making change happen. That is why we are particularly delighted to see the Virgin Galactic logo on the Brawn GP cars this weekend.”

About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic’s mission is to transform the levels of safety, frequency, cost and environmental impact that have been associated with space access ” particularly manned space access ” for almost half a century. Virgin Group has begun working across many of its businesses, particularly in the transportation sector, to showcase and push new, carbon efficient technologies that will help provide the solutions to the challenges of a rising global population and human induced climate change. Because of a range of proven innovations, Virgin Galactic will be operating an environmentally-benign space launch system that will help open space for people, payload and scientific purposes. http://www.virgingalactic.com

About Brawn GP

Formula One is the ultimate team sport which goes beyond the race track to develop and harness tomorrow’s technology. It is where world-leading engineering goes together with a driver’s bravery and the strategic minds of his engineers to compete at the pinnacle of global motorsport.

The Brawn GP Formula One Team is based on a 15-acre site located at the heart of the UK’s motorsport valley and just a few miles away from the historic Silverstone circuit. For over ten years, the team’s headquarters has been developed into one of the world’s leading Formula One facilities with state-of-the-art technology and best practice manufacturing techniques.

Led by the multiple world championship winning experience of Ross Brawn, one of the best engineering minds in Formula One, the team has high expectations for its future and achieving success on Formula One’s global stage.

http://www.brawngp.com.