Former Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn Takes Over UKspace

Will Whitehorn gives a pat on the back to Richard Branson as he greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders during the Oshkosh air show in 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

DIDCOT, England (UKspace PR) – Space industry pioneer and entrepreneur, Will Whitehorn, today takes over from Andy Green as President of UKspace, the trade association which represents the UK space industry.

Will, who was formerly President of Virgin Galactic, played a central role in the development and concept of commercial spaceflight, and now holds several non-executive roles at companies including the Royal Air Force, Good Energy PLC, Stagecoach Group PLC, AAC Clyde Space and Scottish Event Campus Ltd. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He was also awarded the 2010 Geoffrey Pardoe RAeS Space Award for services to the space industry.

Will said: “I would like to thank Andy Green for the amazing job he has done establishing UKspace. The industry is at a critical stage of development as we are on the cusp of an industrial revolution in space. Not only are satellites becoming exponentially more capable every month, but the new technologies for space launch are finally upon us, so the UK has the opportunity to become a powerhouse for both global manufacturing and space launch from the new space ports in the UK.

“At UKspace we are determined to forge a partnership with Government to achieve this and continue growing the industry and its contribution to Britain’s place in the global economy.”

Andy, who has been President of UKspace since 2009, said: “The space industry in the UK has an exciting future. Over the ten years I’ve been President of UKspace, we’ve established a global reputation for innovation and grown our global market share. We’ve seen the establishment of the UK Space Agency and the Satellite Applications Catapult. And the public’s love of space was rekindled by ESA’s Major Tim Peake’s space station mission. I’m proud of what the industry has achieved.

“But big challenges remain. Space has never been more important for creating growth and opportunity, and for national security and defence. Yet changes to our international relationships risk undermining the UK’s unique sovereign capabilities. I’m encouraged by the Government’s announcement of a National Space Council. Now we need to see clear leadership from the sector and Government in delivering a fully financed National Space Programme.

“Will is the perfect leader to pull together the industry for this exciting next phase of its development.”

Editor’s Note: During his time as president of Richard Branson’s space tourism company (2004-2010), Will Whitehorn was known for hype and big promises Virgin still hasn’t delivered on nine years after he moved on from the company.

Whitehorn’s promotional strategy was effective. He got Abu Dhabi to invest $390 million for a space tourism system and air-launched rocket that are still in development. He also helped convince New Mexico to spend $225 million for a spaceport on the promise of flying 50,000 passengers from there by 2019. (Total to date: zero.)

Whitehorn also promised a level of safety for passengers that was probably not achievable given the nature of the enterprises the company was pursuing.

His new gig should be pretty easy — for now. UK’s national and local governments are literally throwing millions at the space industry. The sector is really on a roll.

But, the UK’s departure from the European Union — Brexit — looms in 31 days. Nobody is quite sure how the economy will function, or how much revenue the government will have available to invest in spaceports, rockets and smallsats.

Depending upon how things go, this could be a case of climbing aboard just as the bubble bursts. In which case, Whitehorn is probably an excellent choice. He definitely knows how to sell things.