Tag: Richard Branson

Virgin Galactic Promotes Doug Shane to TSC President


Doug Shane

MOJAVE, Calif. – July 29th, 2014 – The Spaceship Company (TSC), the space manufacturing venture owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, announced today that Doug Shane has been named President. TSC, the sister company of Virgin Galactic, is responsible for manufacturing the full fleet of Galactic’s innovative SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo space vehicles and has built extensive capabilities in all aspects of aerospace vehicle design, analysis, fabrication and test.

Shane will continue to report to George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.

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Virgin Galactic Gears Up for Resumption of Flight Tests

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the tarmac on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the tarmac on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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.

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SpaceShipTwo Outside on Tarmac Again



Editor’s Note: SpaceShipTwo hasn’t been seen outside for months now. Its last powered flight was on Jan. 10. A week later, it made a glide flight. That was the last time it was seen in the skies over Mojave.

Sources tell Parabolic Arc that the suborbital ship has been modified with wing tanks. One tank will hold methane that will be used along with nitrous oxide to burn the plastic fuel. The other tank will include helium used to smooth out the end of the motor’s burn.

Company officials have said they expect to conduct a series of powered flights over the summer leading up to the first commercial flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico at the end of the year. That flight will carry Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson and his children.

UAE to Create Space Agency, Send Spacecraft to Mars in 2021


UAE_Coat_of_ArmsThe United Arab Emirates plans to establish a space agency and to launch for the first Arab spacecraft to Mars by 2021 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding.

“The UAE Mars probe represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration,” said President Sheikh Khalifa, according to state news agency WAM.

“We will prove that we are capable of delivering new scientific contributions to humanity.

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Spaceport America Seeks Loan for Visitors Center as Road Project Progresses

The mission control room at Spaceport America. (Credit: Alex Heard)

The mission control room at Spaceport America. (Credit: Alex Heard)

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has approved borrowing $6.5 million to build a Spaceport America visitors center in Truth or Consequences. Meanwhile, Dona Ana County officials are preparing to bid out a contract to pave a southern road that leads to the remote spaceport.

However, the projects won’t measure up to the original plans for them due to funding limitations. The budget squeeze is a result of years of delay in the start of commercial operations by Spaceport America’s anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic.

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My Appearance on John Batchelor Show is Now Online

The John Batchelor Show

The John Batchelor Show

David Livingston has now archived my appearance last night on The John Batchelor Show for your listening pleasure. The three of us discussed Virgin Galactic’s switch to a plastic engine, and the concerns over whether the engine will be properly tested on the ground before the resumption of powered flight tests scheduled to begin by late summer. We also talked about whether the plan to fly Richard Branson and his children on the first commercial flight by the end of the year is realistic and safe.

Report: Google in Talks with Virgin Galactic on Equity Share, Satellite Launcher Deal


Google_logo_newAs I reported here exclusively back on May 11, Google has been in talks with Virgin Galactic for acquisition of its LauncherOne satellite technology and an equity stake in Richard Branson’s space tourism company. Sky News reports:

The talks are likely to lead to a deal with two main elements, according to insiders.

The first will see Google inject hundreds of millions of dollars into a joint venture, with Virgin Galactic folding in the technology it has developed as part of its efforts to build the world’s first space tourism business.

The second component will involve Google spending roughly $30m (£17.8m) in return for a small stake in the Virgin Galactic holding company.

The terms of the alliance have not yet been finalised and could yet be altered before a deal is struck.

A person close to Google said, though, that its £17.8m investment could value Virgin Galactic at as much as £1.2bn, equating to a shareholding of approximately 1.5%.

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UK Wants Spaceport, More ISS Research


UK_space_agencyBy Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The UK is looking to spend £25 to £50 million ($41.9 to $83.8 million) on a spaceport because it believes that “after the US, the UK has the best chance to be the second country in the world to enable spaceplane operations.”

That’s the word from the UK Department for Business Innovation & Skills (DBIS), which recently published “Creating the Future: A 2020 Vision for Science & Research: A Consultation on Proposals for Long-Term Capital Investment in Science & Research.”

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Has a Space Trip With King of the World Leo DiCaprio Been Overbooked?

"I'm king of space!"

“I’m king of space!”

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio sure knows how to sell tickets — both on Earth and in space. But, has Virgin Galactic overbooked his flight?

A trip on a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle with the superstar actor was auctioned off for 700,000 euros ($954,000) recently at the annual amfAR auction near Cannes, France. The charity benefits AIDS research.

Space.com reports three other seats on the flight have already been auctioned off on the scheduled 2015 flight for a combined $3.8 million. Richard Branson’s business-jet style space tourism vehicle is designed to carry two pilots and six passengers.

However, reports have come into Parabolic Arc indicating that the passenger load will be reduced to four due to modifications that have added weight to SpaceShipTwo. Reportedly, the reduction is still required even though Virgin Galactic has switched to a more powerful plastic engine from a rubber one.

This raises the question of whether the DiCaprio flight has been overbooked. Imagine spending nearly a million dollars on a flight and getting bumped! Virgin Galactic will have offer more than a $300 toward a future flight and a hotel voucher for something like that.

Space Companies Update Plans for Doing Space Things

Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)

Space Adventures vehicle for circumlunar flights. (Credit: Space Adventures)

Michael Belfiore has a piece in the MIT Technology Review about a May 1 event at the Explorers Club in New York where 13 commercial space companies showed off their plans. Several key players had updated schedules which anyone paying the slightest bit of attention will know to take with 1.7 metric tons of salt:

  • Virgin Galactic’s head of Astronaut Relations Lauren De Niro Pipher predicted that Richard Branson and his children would fly to space aboard SpaceShipTwo in November or December. Note, this was prior to the announcement of a change in the ship’s engine, which officials insist won’t have a major impact on the schedule.
  • XCOR hopes to fly the Lynx Mark I before the end of the year. The ship is now being assembled in Mojave, Calif.
  • Blue Origin said it would begin test flights of its first full-scale spacecraft within a year.
  • Space Adventures says it has signed up two unidentified customers willing to spend $150 million to fly a modified Soyuz spacecraft around the moon. The flight is set to launch in 2017 or 2018.
  • Penn State Lunar Lion plans to send a coffee-table sized spacecraft to land on the moon in an effort to win the Google Lunar X Prize.
  • Planetary Resources discussed plans to launch its first Arkyd spacecraft from the International Space Station by the end of this year.
  • World View Enterprises said the company would launch a small test vehicle of its high-altitude manned capsule in about a month, which would be right about now.