UAE Becomes Center of Middle East’s Space Effort

The seven-state United Arab Emirates is quickly becoming the center of the Middle East’s space effort, with agreements with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital spaceport and Bigelow Aerospace to develop an orbital spaceflight program. In the process, it is riding the crest of a new commercial wave in how human spaceflight will be conducted.

UAE might have the first commercial suborbital spaceport outside of the United States should the American government allows Virgin Galactic to export its WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo system.

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Virgin Galactic Investor Aabar Doubled Profits in 2009

Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic pilots, staffers and investors. To his right is Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar, which made a $280 million in Virgin Galactic.
Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic pilots, staffers and investors. To his right is Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar, which made a $280 million in Virgin Galactic.

Profits in fast lane
7 Days

Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments announced that it more than doubled its full year profits last year.

The company, which is the biggest share holder in US car maker Daimler maker of Mercedes Benz cars, said that its 2009 profit rose to $457 million from $196 million the year before.

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Virgin Galactic Officials Remain Optimistic on Aabar Deal

Richard Branson after his first flight aboard WhiteKnightTwo at the Oshkosh airshow.
Richard Branson after his first flight aboard WhiteKnightTwo at the Oshkosh airshow.

Questions on Security Mar Foreign Investments
The New York Times

Executives at Virgin Galactic, by comparison, say they remain confident they can clear up government concerns about the proposed sale of 32 percent of their venture to Aabar Investments of Abu Dhabi, which is controlled by the government there.

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U.S. Launches National Security Investigation of Virgin Galactic-Aabar Deal

Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic pilots, staffers and investors. To his right is Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar, which made a $280 million in Virgin Galactic.
Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic pilots, staffers and investors. To his right is Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar, which made a $280 million in Virgin Galactic.

US inquiry into sale of Virgin Galactic stake to Arab investor
The Times

The United States has launched a national security investigation into the proposed sale of a stake in Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space company to Arab investors.

The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) is understood to have begun a review of Sir Richard’s sale of a 32 per cent stake in Galactic to Aabar Investments for $280 million (£170 million). The move has caused alarm in banking circles in Abu Dhabi and could raise tensions between the US and the Gulf.

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Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Owns Part of Virgin Galactic, Tesla Motors

Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic pilots, staffers and investors. To his right is Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar, which made a $280 million in Virgin Galactic.
Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic pilots, staffers and investors. To his right is Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar, which made a $280 million in Virgin Galactic.

There’s an interesting story in The National about how Aabar Investments – a company backed by the Abu Dhabi government – has transformed itself from a small energy firm into a high-tech powerhouse with investments in Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic (32 percent) and Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors (4 percent).

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Virgin Galactic Investor Aabar Loses Nearly $600 Million in Second Quarter

The National reports that Aabar Investments – which has taken a significant stake in Virgin Galactic – suffered a significant second quarter loss:

Aabar Investments, the Abu Dhabi Government-backed investor, swung to a loss of Dh2.18 billion (US$594 million) in the second quarter after using derivative financial instruments to soak up risks from its acquisition in the luxury car maker Daimler.

The loss caps a period of frenetic investment for the group, which has seen it take stakes over recent months in Daimler and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space travel venture, and helped its stock price increase by half since the beginning of the year.

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Will Virgin Galactic Soar Like an Eagle or Sink Like a Stone?

Richard Branson after his first flight aboard WhiteKnightTwo at the Oshkosh airshow.
Richard Branson after his first flight aboard WhiteKnightTwo at the Oshkosh airshow.

Rocket Man
Arabian Business


Richard Branson has been on the receiving end of a fair few jokes in his time. One of the more memorable was in 2000, when British satirical magazine Private Eye ran a front cover of the entrepreneur dressed as Santa Claus with the caption; ‘No-one believes in you anymore.’

Virgin Trains, his railway operation, was coming under fire for its shocking time-keeping record and Branson himself had just made a failed bid for the franchise of the UK’s National Lottery.

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Will Abu Dhabi’s Investment in Virgin Galactic Pay Off?

Sir Richard Branson greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders. Financier Per Wimmer is at left; behind Branson is Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn.
Sir Richard Branson greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders. Financier Per Wimmer is at left; behind Branson is Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn.

Virgin’s enterprises can soar – but also fail to reach orbit
The National

All exciting, cutting-edge stuff, a classic of the Virgin genre, and on the 40th anniversary of the moon landings, it must have been difficult not to get carried away with the astromania of it all.

The deal fits another Virgin pattern too.

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