Virgin Group, Saudi Arabia Sign MOU for $1 Billion Space Investment

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, October 26, 2017 — The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia and Virgin Group (Virgin), have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a partnership under which PIF intends to invest approximately $1 billion into Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit, with an option for $480 million of future additional investment in space services.

The intention to invest was agreed by HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and of the PIF, and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group. The strategic guidance for the partnership was provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning.

PIF and Virgin partnership creates a strong platform to enhance the role of innovative technology within the Kingdom’s blueprint for a modern, diversified economy, which is a central part of Vision 2030.

HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, said: “This partnership with Virgin Group reflects the great strides the Kingdom is making towards our vision for a diversified, knowledge-based economy. The future of Saudi Arabia is one of innovation, as showcased at this week’s Future Investment Initiative, and it’s through partnerships with organizations like Virgin Group that we will make active contributions to those sectors and technologies that are driving progress on a global scale.”

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as our new partners in Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit under the leadership of His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud. We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic going into space with people on board and Virgin Orbit going into orbit and placing satellites around the Earth. This investment will enable us to develop the next generation of satellite launches and accelerate our programme for point to point supersonic space travel.”

The MoU was signed by H.E. Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan, Managing Director of PIF, and Patrick McCall, Senior Managing Director of the Virgin Group, during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) taking place in Riyadh this week.

The intended investment will, subject to regulatory approval, result in PIF taking a significant stake in Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit, alongside Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments. This will support the companies’ human spaceflight plans and accelerate Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing and operational capabilities. It will also aid the development of next generation low cost small satellite launch systems and commercial supersonic point-to-point travel capabilities; and includes the possibility to develop a space centric entertainment industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Companies and PIF will cooperate to execute on a mutually agreed roadmap for the KSA’s space industry consistent with applicable laws, including U.S. export controls.

  • ThomasLMatula

    More “good” money after “bad”. But its good to see those petrodollars being returned to the U.S. 🙂

  • Dave Salt

    Sir Richard seems to be following the principles of William Claude Dukenfield, one of my favourite philosophers, who said “it is morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money” (i.e. anyone gullible enough to give you their money for no good reason should be encouraged 🙂

    Seriously though, I suspect this has more to do with ventures related to comsat constellation and SST ventures rather than SS2.

  • Douglas Messier

    That’s $390 million from UAE and $1 billion from Saudi Arabia with option for $480 million more through govt owned sovereign wealth funds. Then there’s $225 million and counting in government funding for Spaceport America.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Suckers…

  • Vladislaw

    Long term diversification planning in the tech field? Probably more about having a turn key system for cube sats.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Is there any indication on what the breakdown across programs or companies will be?

  • Douglas Messier

    Nope.

  • Hemingway

    Does anyone have a copy of the non-binding memorandum of understanding beyween Branson and Saudi Arabia?

  • Search

    LoL, the real question is will there be gender, sexual orientation, or religion restrictions on passengers.

  • Search

    Heh. Maybe Branson pulls the whole thing out of New Mexico and out to some place in the ME.

  • ThomasLMatula

    You forget. ITAR