Aabar Investments Non-Committal on Continuing Virgin Galactic Investment

SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

An update on Abu Dhabi’s investment in Virgin Galactic.

The Abu Dhabi fund which owns a major stake in Virgin Galactic will wait for results of the probe into last week’s fatal crash before deciding on its commitment to the project, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The backing of deep-pocketed Aabar Investments, run by the Abu Dhabi government, may be crucial to Virgin Galactic as it struggles to recover from the accident, which killed one test pilot and left another seriously injured. “As an investor, Aabar is concerned of course. It is a challenge – nothing can be decided until investigations are over,” the source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. “For now, it is a wait-and-watch situation.”

Asked if Aabar was still committed to Virgin Galactic, the source said only: “There is time to make an assessment of the future strategy.”

The company invested $390 million in Virgin Galactic and owns 37.8 percent of the company.

Prior to the accident, sources told Parabolic Arc that Virgin Galactic was under serious pressure to fly to space or Aabar would not continue investing in the company.

It’s not entirely clear what waiting “for the results of the probe” means. If they wait for the results of the NTSB investigation, that could be an entire year. Of course, they could make a decision earlier if word comes back before the probe is complete as to the root cause of the accident. Virgin is also working on a recovery plan and hopes to begin flight tests of a second SpaceShipTwo vehicle by summer 2015.