Branson Visits Mojave, Renames Spaceship Company

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Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, CA – Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, today dropped into his Mojave, Calif.-based Virgin Galactic space company as part of a visit to the Los Angeles area. During his visit, Sir Richard, accompanied by his daughter, Holly, toured the extensive facilities and met informally with the Mojave-based workforce now numbering more than 175 Virgin Galactic employees. Sir Richard announced to staff that Virgin Galactic’s Mojave-based sister organization, The Spaceship Company, which will manufacture and assemble a fleet of commercial space vehicles, is to be renamed and brought under the Virgin Galactic brand.

Richard Branson and the employees who built SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

Sir Richard’s visit to the Mojave Air and Space Port included a meeting with the team from Mojave-based Scaled Composites (Scaled). Scaled developed Virgin Galactic’s commercial vehicles, WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) and SpaceShipTwo (SS2), both of which are in the latter stages of their test flight program. Sir Richard congratulated the hi-tech teams from Virgin Galactic and Scaled on their achievements in producing and testing WK2 and SS2, bringing his vision of affordable manned access to space to reality. He then met with Virgin Galactic engineering and design staff and enjoyed a preview of the yet-to-be-revealed spaceship interior. After visiting the vehicle test sites, he joined the whole team at the Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar (FAITH) for a tour and updates on operations, assembly and propulsion. The events concluded with a celebration and one-on-one time with employees.

Sir Richard Branson and the Scaled Composites team pose in front of SpaceShipTwo, after Richard got to see for himself the great progress being made installing rocket motor and tanks in preparation for powered flight. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic’s vehicle fleet 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, which will be manufactured by Virgin Galactic in Mojave CA, share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload, 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 for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers. The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test flight program is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

 Editor’s Note: Last week, workmen started to re-brand the Spaceship Company with the Virgin Galactic logo (a closeup of Richard Branson’s eye) and the company’s name. They put up the logo but only got as far as “alactic” on the wording before a fall storm blew into Mojave on Thursday with high winds and very cold temperatures.  It was still that way on Saturday; I haven’t seen the hangar since, so maybe they have finished.

I had expected some sort of announcement, but a visit from Branson was a surprise.