Dodging Disaster: A Fire, the North Star and the Mojave Code

Fire at a Spaceship Company hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Fire outside of The Spaceship Company hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port on June 5, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. – Luke Colby was horrified.

A fire had erupted outside the old Derringer hangar. Pallets of rubber fuel grain were burning, sending a thick cloud of black smoke into the blue sky over the Mojave Air and Space Port. Firefighters from Kern County Fire Station 14 were doing their best to put out the fire by spraying it down with water.

It seemed like the logical thing to do. And it would have been, if the fire had been located almost anywhere else.


Virgin Galactic Has New Vice President of Safety

Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic has named one its pilots, Todd Ericson, as its new vice president of safety and test. The appointment comes about a year after the company’s previous vice president of safety retired from the company.

Ericson, who previously flew for the U.S. Air Force, joined Virgin Galactic as a pilot in July.  His biography on the company’s website reads:

With his experience as a former Safety Director and pilot in the US Air Force, he served in critical safety roles during ground and test flights. Today, Todd’s responsibilities extend across the full range of the company’s activities: the manufacture and testing of both the second SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle and flights of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.


Mojave Jobs: Virgin Galactic Needs a Vice President of Safety

SpaceShipTwo lights its engine as WhiteKnightTwo flies overhead. (Credit: Ken Brown)
SpaceShipTwo lights its engine as WhiteKnightTwo flies overhead. (Credit: Ken Brown)

Parabolic Arc is pleased to launch a new series looking at job openings here in Mojave. Today we’re taking a closer look at Virgin Galactic, which plans to launch commercial space tourism later this year. The space tourism company, which says that safety is its North Star, needs a vice president of safety.

This position has been advertised on the Virgin Galactic website for months now. Jon Turnipseed is listed as holding that position on Our Team section of the Virgin Galactic website. Oddly enough, multiple sources in Mojave say he has been gone from that post since around the beginning of last summer even as SpaceShipTwo has performed two powered flights. So, this must be a difficult position to fill.

UPDATE VIA WILL POMERANTZ: Some info on that specific job opening, since the rumor mill is churning out bad data (as seems to be the case so often): Jon Turnipseed’s last day as a full time employee was Dec 19, but he is still serving as a contractor to the company. Jon left big shoes to fill when he retired after spending several years here at VG/TSC (in addition to a great career with the US Air Force), but we are now interviewing our final candidates for the job. Of course, we remain open to great candidates who haven’t yet gotten in touch—it’s  important to get the best possible person for the job!


ust how hard is that position to fill? Well, let’s look at the duties and requirements, shall we?