At the end of a long article about the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) efforts to develop a virbrant space industry, The National revealed this bit of news from Ibrahim Al Qasim, deputy director general of the UAE Space Agency.
Mr Al Qasim revealed to The National that the agreement that was signed in 2019 with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to bring space tourism flights to Al Ain Airport is no longer in effect, without explaining further.
Instead, the country is now working with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to set up spaceports.
He said discussions with the company, which has already flown 20 people on its suborbital flights, are under way.
Any agreement to fly Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle would be dependent upon a technology safeguards agreement between the UAE and the United States. An agreement with New Zealand allows Rocket Lab to launch Electron rockets from the company’s spaceport on Mahia Peninsula. Brazil has signed an agreement that will allow U.S. companies to launch from the Alcantara Space Center.
The UAE state of Abu Dhabi has been a major investor in Virgin Galactic, which plans to fly suborbital tourism flights aboard SpaceShipTwo. In 2009, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Aabar Investments put in $280 million for a 31.7 percent share of Richard Branson’s space company. Aabar later invested an additional $100 million for a 38.7 percent share of Virgin Galactic.
The additional $100 million investment was intended to help finance the development of a small satellite booster that would be air launched from WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft when it wasn’t used for SpaceShipTwo suborbital flights. A new company, Virgin Orbit, split off from Virgin Galactic. The company dumped plans to use WhiteKnightTwo; instead, it uses a larger booster, LauncherOne, that is dropped from a modified Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl.
The Nationalreports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is eyeing the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for launches of its New Shepard suborbital crew system.
In an exclusive interview with The National, Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of advanced development programmes for Blue Origin, said the UAE was an “obvious choice” for a spaceport and that it was looking to expand its launch sites from the current one in El Paso, Texas.
“Now that we are operational for tourism, the next thing we are looking at is other locations around the planet to establish launch and landing sites for New Shepard,” he said.
“It’s an obvious place to look here. All we really need is some desert. One of the endearing qualities of the West Texas desert is that it is hard to get to the El Paso airport. You have to drive for a couple of hours and it is in the middle of nowhere.
“A couple of nights ago I slept over in Sharjah and did some stargazing in the desert. It was only 30 minutes away from Dubai, so I think it’s very promising to think about areas here.”
Virgin Galactic is also eyeing the UAE for flights of its suborbital SpaceShipTwo crew vehicle. The government of Abu Dhabi invested $390 million into Richard Branson’s space company.
It was a flight 22 months in the making. But, when it came time for the rubber to meet the oxidizer, the whole thing suddenly flamed out.
The hybrid engine on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity failed to fire properly on Saturday, sending the suborbital rocket plane, pilots David Mackay and C.J. Sturckow and a load of NASA-sponsored experiments into a rapid descent and landing back at Spaceport America, instead of a graceful parabolic arc into suborbital space.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Roscosmos State Corporation Director General Dmitry Rogozin took part in the state delegation headed by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
During the trip to Abu-Dhabi the Head of Roscosmos met with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre management and the first UAE astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori, who has recently returned to Earth after his flight to the ISS as part of the international crew. Hazzaa Al Mansoori stayed at the ISS from September 25 to October 3, 2019.
The meeting participants noted that the first UAE astronaut flight is a historical event not only for his homeland, but also for the whole region.
Moreover, during the visit of Vladimir Putin to Riyadh, Roscosmos and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement of cooperation in crewed spaceflights and global satellite navigation system GLONASS. Among other things, the agreement allows for launching a Saudi Arabian cosmonaut to the International Space Station.
Ten years ago, Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny was sitting next to Sir Richard Branson at the Oshkosh air show signing a deal on behalf of Abu Dhabi to invest $280 million in the British billionaire’s space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic.
The wealthy CEO of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, aabar investments, likely had dreams of gazing down on Earth while floating in space aboard Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo.
Today, Al-Husseiny is sitting in a jail cell serving a 10-year sentence for financial crimes. He also has been implicated in one of the largest financial frauds in history involving the theft of more than $4 billion.
Spacewatch Globalreports on efforts to attract NewSpace and other technology companies to Abu Dhabi:
Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala is set to create a start-up ecosystem in Abu Dhabi that will attract New Space and other emerging technology companies to the Gulf Arab state. The ecosystem will be called Hub71 and will include Softbank’s Vision Fund and Microsoft as partners, according to Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak – Mubadala’s Chief Executive Officer – in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review.
Hub71 is being funded by Mubadala to the tune of one billion Dirhams (U.S.$272 million) that will be used for subsidizing or to co-invest in promising startups involved in New Space, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and microelectronics. Hub71 will be based in the financial district of Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, and is part of the UAE’s overall strategy of diversifying its economy away from its dependency on hydrocarbons.
Mubadala manages assets worth over U.S.$250 billion in the United States, Europe, and more recently, in the Asia-Pacific region. Mubadala’s investments in Asia – totaling U.S.$15 billion to date – have been primarily made via Softbank’s Vision Fund.
Elon Musk has a new pay package with Tesla Motors that could net him $55 billion over the next decade if the company reaches a series of extremely ambitious targets, according to press reports. If he doesn’t reach those goals in 10 years, he could end up with nothing.
That might seem like a crazy plan even for Musk, who is known for taking great risks. But, it makes sense when you consider the billionaire’s ultimate long-term goal: to develop a transportation system to facilitate the establishment of human colonies on Mars.
Musk has said he is dedicating his personal wealth to that objective. And although his net worth is estimated at $21 billion, actual profits from his various businesses have been elusive.
The nonbinding memorandum of understanding involving $1 billion in investment from Saudi Arabia is Richard Branson’s latest success in obtaining financial support from governments for his Virgin Group’s space companies.
The table below shows funding invested directly into the group’s space ventures and indirectly for infrastructure.
VIRGIN GROUP SPACE COMPANIES — DIRECT & INDIRECT GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT
Custom built spaceport named Spaceport America constructed on 18,000 acres of land — Virgin Galactic signed 20 year lease to serve as anchor tenant
Government-owned sovereign wealth fund Aabar Investments obtained 31.6 percent share of Virgin Galactic — plans for a spaceport where SpaceShipTwo would fly in Dubai — future commitment of $100 million more when Virgin Galactic developed viable plan for small-satellite booster (LauncherOne)
Aabar Investments increased share of Virgin Galactic to 37.6 percent
Under non-binding MOU, government-run Public Investment Fund (PIC) would obtain undisclosed share of three Virgin Group space companies: Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company — Virgin Group to maintain majority ownership
PIC has an option to invest nearly a half-billion more in Virgin Group space services
It’s been quite a while since we’ve checked in with our friends over at Aabar Investments, the Abu Dhabi-owned sovereign wealth fund that invested $390 million into Virgin Galactic in exchange for a 37.6-percent share of Sir Richard Branson’s space line.
And boy, do I wish we had checked in sooner. There’s been some real serious [expletive deleted] going down with that investment over the past year. Real serious you know what.
Mike Alsbury’s day began with a 3 a.m. wake up at his home in Tehachapi, Calif. He showered, dressed and ate a breakfast that likely consisted of an apple and a granola bar.
Alsbury rarely awoke at so early; but this Oct. 31 was a flight test day. That meant a lot of people were getting up early for the latest milestone in the Tier 1B program. At least that’s what they called it at Alsbury’s employer, Scaled Composites. The rest of the world knew it as WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo – the foundation of Sir Richard Branson’s suborbital space tourism program. Scaled built and tested the vehicles for the British billionaire’s spaceline, Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic is developing a rocket more powerful than LauncherOne to fulfill a recent order for 39 launches from its global satellite Internet partner OneWeb, according to sources familiar with the program.
LauncherTwo will use Virgin Galactic’s largest liquid fuel engine, NewtonThree, in its first stage, according to sources that insisted upon anonymity. A new engine, NewtonFour, will be developed for the second stage.
Update: No flight on Friday, but there was a hybrid engine test of about 60 seconds on one of the test stands that reportedly went well.
After a six-month gap in flights, it looks as if SpaceShipTwo will once again fly in the Mojave sky, possibly as early as Friday morning.
On Wednesday, SpaceShipTwo was outside on the tarmac underneath its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship for what Virgin Galactic described as a “dry run” for upcoming test flights. There is a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) indicating that the Mojave Air and Space Port’s tower will be open early on Friday morning. It’s possible this is being done to accommodate a SpaceShipTwo test flight, although sometimes the tower opens early for other reasons.
If there is a flight tomorrow, my best guess is it will involve a captive carry or un-powered drop test to evaluate modifications that have been made to SpaceShipTwo. But, perhaps they will surprise us with something more ambitious.
Over the years, I’ve heard many speakers at various space conferences and events say all sorts of things that I felt…oh, comment on dit?…stretched the truth like Silly Putty. Yes, that’s a polite way to put it.
After a while, I’ve become quite numb to it all — the hype, promises, publicity stunts, optimistic schedules that get blown away like fallen leaves on a windy Mojave day. By this point, most of it just passes over me without meriting so much as a mention.
But, sometimes I hear something that stretches the rhetorical Silly Putty beyond the breaking point. I had just such an experience three weeks ago at the Space Tech Expo in Long Beach, Calif.
Aabar Investments, the Abu Dhabi government company which owns 37.8 percent of Virgin Galactic, release the following Q&A today with Galactic CEO and President George Whitesides.
What brings you to the UAE?
We’re here for two events. The first was the Global Aerospace Summit. Secondly, we had a board meeting with our fellow Virgin Galactic shareholders, Aabar Investments, in their parent company’s, International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), HQ building.
Is this your first time in Abu Dhabi?
We are co-owned by Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments. Naturally, with significant Abu Dhabi ownership, represented on our Board, we have been frequent visitors since Aabar made its initial investment in . We are very proud of our Emirati connections and continue to benefit from Aabar Investments’ ownership.