Today, Sept. 27, marks the 15th anniversary of Richard Branson announcing the launch of Virgin Galactic Airways. It’s been a long, winding road between that day and today, filled with many broken promises, missed deadlines, fatal accidents and a pair of spaceflights.
This year actually marks a double anniversary: it’s been 20 years since Branson registered the company and began searching for a vehicle the company could use to fly tourists into suborbital space.
Below is a timeline of the important events over that period.
Mogul’s Account of Virgin Galactic Most Revealing for What It Doesn’t Say
Part 1 of 3
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography Richard Branson Portfolio Oct. 10, 2017 482 pages
One day in mid-2003, Virgin Atlantic pilot Alex Tai wandered into a hangar at Mojave Airport and discovered SpaceShipOne, a suborbital rocket plane that Scaled Composites’ Founder Burt Rutan was secretly building to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the first privately-built crewed vehicle to reach space twice in two weeks.
The chance discovery would eventually solve separate problems the famed aircraft designer and Tai’s boss, Richard Branson, were trying to solve. Rutan’s spaceship was being funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, who wanted to win the prize but had no plans to finance a commercial follow-on spacecraft.
Four years earlier, Branson had registered a new company named Virgin Galactic Airways and set off in search of someone to build a vehicle capable of carrying passengers into space. Those efforts had come to naught until Tai made his discovery at the dusty airport in California’s High Desert.
A company led by the Virgin Group’s Director of Special Projects Alex Tai is the Mojave Air and Space Port’s newest tenant.
Last week, the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors authorized Mojave Air & Space Port CEO Stu Witt to finalize a lease for Tai’s company, Super Sonic Jet, Inc., of Nevada. Tai plans to house a small fleet of Eastern Bloc fighters in Building 70, a hangar adjacent to the airport’s Administration building.
An interesting story on the Air & Space website about former space shuttle pilot Robert “Hoot” Gibson – who has flown four shuttle missions andÂ a total of 111Â types of aircraft. In spite of all that, it seems he can’t get a job flying tourists on short jaunts into space:
Virgin’s Galactic has a 5-5 plan for its growth – order five additional spacecraft from Scaled Composites and turn a profit within five years beginning suborbital tourism launches in 2010.
“In the short term, we have firm orders for five spaceships and options for seven … We believe there is a very strong market,” said Virgin Galactic Director Alex Tai during an appearance at the Singapore Airshow.
Read the full Reuters story here. Public Radio also has a short piece about Virgin Galactic, which you can listen to here.