Tag: Richard Branson

Space Conferences, Engine Claims and Silly Putty

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SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Whitesides Vows to Fly on SpaceShipTwo Test Flight

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Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides speaks with current and prospective employees during Virgin Galactic’s recent career fair at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides speaks to current and prospective employees during Virgin Galactic’s recent career fair at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic CEO and President George Whitesides says he plans to be on a SpaceShipTwo test flight later this year:

Whitesides said at the Aerospace Summit at the start of April that he would take one of the latter test flights, before his boss took off on the first commercial space flight with his family.

“Sir Richard [Branson] flying on the first commercial flight has been a great sign to our customers that we’re not going to let him fly until we think it’s ready. Correspondingly, I think I should fly soon before Richard just to make sure that he knows that I fully believe in the technology,” he said.

This is a bit odd. But, it seems to be the VG way.

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Land Rover SpaceShipTwo Promotional Video

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Although Virgin Galactic has yet to fly anywhere close to space, it has managed to inspire any number of promotional videos about just how awesome the space tourism trips will be someday. Here’s the latest one from Land Rover, which was announced as a global sponsor earlier this week.

Virgin Galactic Forms Partnership With Land Rover

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Credit: Land Rover

Credit: Land Rover

NEW YORK (Land Rover PR) — Land Rover, the British brand synonymous with adventure, has revealed a long-term global partnership with Richard Branson’s pioneering commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic.

Demonstrating their shared vision of pioneering spirit, technological innovation and sense of adventure, the ground breaking partnership was announced against the backdrop of SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial passenger carrying spacecraft, together with Land Rover’s new Discovery Vision Concept vehicle.  The announcement illustrates the commitment that both brands share to iconic design and engineering excellence and a desire to push the boundaries of travel for the next generation.

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Virgin Galactic Mulling Deeper Partnership With Abu Dhabi Government

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Will the Abu Dhabi government become even more deeply involved in Virgin Galactic?

That’s the question this week as Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides revealed that Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism company is in talks with Mubadala Development Company about a possible supplier relationship.

Mubadala, which is a wholly-owned investment vehicle for Abu Dhabi’s government, owns Mubadala Aerospace, which manufactures and supplies parts for commercial jets built by Boeing and Airbus.

Asked if Mubadala could supply parts or build any part of Virgin Galactic’s commercial spacecraft fleet, Whitesides said, “We’ve had good conversations with Mubadala and other stakeholders in the UAE and we will see where those conversations go.”

However, he added that he “won’t get into the details of those discussions.”

The Abu Dhabi government has invested $390 million in Virgin Galactic through Aabar Investments, which it also owns. Aabar holds a 37.8% share in Virgin Galactic.

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SpaceShipTwo Back on the Ramp

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mojave_tower_sunset_smBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After a couple of months inside the hangar undergoing modifications, SpaceShipTwo is outside on the ramp today at the Mojave Air & Space Port in California.

Scaled Composites engineers are running the suborbital space plane through pressure tests on the cockpit, according to sources. The vehicle does not have an engine installed.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo last flew under power on Jan. 10, completing a 20-second burn of its hybrid nitrous oxide-rubber engine and reached an altitude of 71,000 feet. The ship flew again in an un-powered glide flight one week later before going into the hangar for changes.

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New Mexico Residents Wait for Godot — and Branson — to Show Up

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New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez with Richard Branson at Spaceport America. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Over a BuzzFeed, writer Joshua Wheeler travels to the hardscrabble town of Truth or Consequences, N.M., whose residents are waiting for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to begin space tourism flights from nearby Spaceport America, possibly by the end of this year.

Wheeler asks whether the town is ready for the influx of high net worth individuals, and whether they will bring the benefits to Truth or Consequences and the rest of Southern New Mexico that were promised when state officials sold the $218 million taxpayer-funded project to residents.

The answer to the first question is a definite “No.” Truth or Consequences remains as dilapidated as ever, with few plans and little money to spruce itself up for Virgin Galactic’s millionaire clientele. This likely means it will lose out to the larger, more developed city of Las Cruces in terms of benefits.

As for the second question, Wheeler says that remains to be seen. He sees great irony that one of the poorest states in the country has spent nearly a quarter building dollars to finance the dream of a British billionaire who will be catering to fellow members of the 1 percent.

Will Virgin Galactic Operate Out of Puerto Rico?

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Airport at the former Roosevelt Roads naval base.

Airport at the former Roosevelt Roads naval base.

UPDATE: Virgin Galactic has denied the report.

Reports have surfaced that Virgin Galactic is looking to operate out of a decommissioned U.S. Navy facility named Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico. The base could host both suborbital space tourism flight, but it would also be ideal for launching small satellites.

Caribbean Business reports that Sir Richard Branson’s company has purchased 11 hangars at the former base, which is run today as the José Aponte de la Torre Airport. The general aviation airport has an 11,000-foot long runway.

However, another report by Agencia EFE says that no deal has been reached.

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Wiklevoss Twins Sign Up for SpaceShipTwo Flight

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The Winkelvoss twins with RIchard Branson. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The Winkelvoss twins with RIchard Branson. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Remember those twin brothers from “The Social Network” who accused Mark Zuckerberg of ripping off their idea for Facebook and cutting them out of billions in profits? And then hilariously went to Harvard President Larry Summers and asked him to intervene?

Well, they’re heading to space. And are they enthused about it. Very enthused.

Virgin Galactic announced today that Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are the 700th and 701st people to sign up for a ride to space aboard SpaceShipTwo. The two brothers run Winklevoss Capital, which is an investment firm.

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Suborbital Friday With XCOR, Virgin Galactic

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XCOR CEO Jeff Greason (Credit: XCOR)

Friday was a big day for finding out more about the two leading suborbital companies.

XCOR conducted a Q&A with CEO Jeff Greason using questions submitted via Facebook and Twitter. Read the transcript on XCOR’s blog and find out more about the status of the Lynx space plane, point-to-point travel, and the company’s plans for the future.

virgin_branson_pomerantz_hangoutMeanwhile, Virgin Galactic Vice President of Special Projects Will Pomerantz joined Richard Branson’s son, Sam, in a Google Hangout to answer questions from participants in the Google Science Fair.  Watch the YouTube video to watch them discuss why humans go to space and Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle.