Virgin Galactic Acquires Full Ownership of The Spaceship Company

SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo circle over the Mojave Air and Space Port during a successful glide flight on July 18, 2012. (Credit: Bill Deaver)

MOJAVE, Calif., Oct. 5, 2012 (VG PR)–Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, today announced that it has taken 100% ownership of its sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), by acquiring the 30% stake held by Scaled Composites (Scaled) since TSC’s formation under a joint venture with Virgin Galactic.

This acquisition, details of which are not being disclosed, marks the successful completion of a long-term strategy and signifies the end of the first phase of TSC’s development. During this development phase, TSC completed the build out of manufacturing and assembly facilities in Mojave, CA, established a specialized workforce and transitioned necessary assets from Scaled in order to begin building Virgin Galactic’s commercial fleet of WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft and SpaceShipTwo (SS2) manned sub-orbital spacecraft. These vehicles will be utilized for Virgin Galactic’s planned spaceline operations which will be based at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico.

The completion of the acquisition comes as Virgin Galactic and Scaled begin to plan the handover of the SS2 development program to Virgin Galactic, with Scaled remaining fully committed to the final portion of the WK2 and SS2 test flight programs prior to Virgin Galactic commencing commercial operations.

Editor’s Note: Wow. This is pretty momentous news. And yet, the press release was published online at Business Wire at 6:23 p.m. EDT on a Friday at the start of the three-day Columbus Day holiday weekend in the United States. Friday evening is usually the time to dump news you don’t want a lot of people to see because few pay very much attention.

There are no quotes from the publicity obsessed Richard Branson, who takes advantage of any opportunity to get his name in the media. The morning that Stratolaunch Systems unveiled its plans last fall, Virgin sent out a press release quoting him even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the project. That release arrived in my email box even before Stratolaunch’s slightly delayed press conference got underway.

There also are no quotes from anyone at Scaled, The SpaceShip Company, or Aabar Investments, the firm owned by the Abu Dhabi royal family that is providing $380 million in funding for Virgin Galactic.

It’s interesting that Virgin Galactic will be taking over the SS2 development program from Scaled after flight testing is completed. That means the company will be in charge of any upgrades and enhancements to SS2 and WK2, including the likely future replacement of SS2’s hybrid engine with a liquid-fueled one. Virgin Galactic also is developing LauncherOne to place small satellites into space.

The end result is that a company owned by a British billionaire and backed by Arab investors will have full control over the future development of advanced space technology created by an American company owned by one of the world’s largest defense contractors, Northrop Grumman.  Huh. That’s pretty sensitive. I wonder if that explains why a low-key press release was sent out on Friday evening.