George Whitesides has rejoined Virgin Galactic after a brief stint as NASA’s Chief of Staff. The space tourism company has named him its first Chief Executive Officer.
Whitesides, who was formerly a consultant for Virgin Galactic and Executive Director of the National Space Society, recently left his position as Chief of Staff to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Prior to joining NASA, he had served on President Barack Obama’s NASA Presidential Transition Team. Whitesides also chaired the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group of the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee.
This experience should serve him well in guiding Virgin Galactic through the completion of flight tests for its WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo system and obtaining a license from the FAA to fly tourists onÂ suborbital flights. The company also plans to use the system to fly microgravity experiments and launch small satellites.
Virgin Galactic’s official press release after the break.
VIRGIN GALACTIC PRESS RELEASE
May 17, 2010
Virgin Galactic, the US based and regulated Space Tourism Company, is delighted to announce the appointment of George T. Whitesides as its first Chief Executive Officer. In this role, Whitesides will guide the business through its transition from a development project to a commercially operational business.
Whitesides joins Virgin Galactic from his recent role as Chief of Staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At NASA, Whitesides was responsible for working to implement the NASA Administratorâ€™s policy agenda and staffing decisions.
Prior to his role as NASA Chief of Staff, Whitesides served as a member of the NASA Presidential Transition Team, Executive Director of the National Space Society, and Chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. Whitesidesâ€™ earlier career experience in the aerospace industry took place at Orbital Sciences Corporation, Blastoff Corporation and the Zero Gravity Corporation. A licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach, Whitesides is a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and a former Fulbright Scholar.
Welcoming Whitesides, Virgin Galactic President, Will Whitehorn, said: â€˜We are delighted that George has agreed to become our first Chief Executive to guide the Galactic project as it transitions into a fully fledged operating business. George brings with him a wealth of experience in space business, policy and regulation. He joins Virgin Galactic at a momentous moment in the development of the company. Test flying of the first SpaceshipTwo (VSS Enterprise) has commenced and our future home at Spaceport America in New Mexico is at an advanced stage of construction. In addition our commercial team has accepted over $65m worth of reservations from 335 future astronauts and the Company is holding deposits of over $45 million.â€
Commenting on his appointment, George Whitesides added: â€œI am honored to be given the opportunity to lead this historic business which will open the experience of space travel to people around the world. There is much to achieve at Virgin Galactic over the coming years as the company moves from the extensive test flying program and FAA licensing process into commercial operation of frequent spaceflights from our new home at Spaceport America in New Mexico. There is a great team at Virgin Galactic and Iâ€™m greatly looking forward to growing the business and establishing operations at the Spaceport.â€
Virgin Galactic has developed the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo air launched space system over the past six years using technology developed by Scaled Composites based on the X Prize winning SpaceShipOne which was piloted twice into space in October 2004 and now hangs in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. The recently developed SpaceShipTwo is capable of carrying eight people into space. The finished vehicle was officially named VSS Enterprise by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger at an unveiling ceremony on the 7th December 2009 before commencing test flights which are now under way in Mojave CA.
Virgin Galactic is the first space company in the world to have developed a network of over 100 accredited sales agents now accepting deposits from participants in 42 countries. Over 50% of Virgin Galacticâ€™s current customers are from the United States.