Tag: Richard Branson

Donald Trump Enters the Space Race

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has entered the space race, in a manner of speaking:

The tycoon is backing calls for Prestwick airport in Ayrshire to be chosen as the launchpad for commercial space flights and will offer VIP packages for passengers at his nearby Turnberry golf resort if it is.

In its bid, a consortium will unveil Trump as the exclusive hotel partner for rich space tourists jetting into the region from across the globe. Tailor-made packages will include castle tours, visits to distilleries and island-hopping in the Hebrides.

Prestwick is competing with five other sites in England and Scotland to be named as the United Kingdom’s first spaceport.

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Experts: FAA Review Process for SpaceShipTwo Flawed, Subject to Political Pressure

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SpaceShipTwo fuselage (Credit: NTSB)

SpaceShipTwo fuselage (Credit: NTSB)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an experimental permit to Scaled Composites to begin flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo in 2012 despite serious deficiencies in the company’s application relating to safety analysis and risk mitigation, according to documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this week.

When renewing the annual permit in 2013 and 2014, the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) issued waivers that exempted Scaled Composites from explaining how it evaluated and planned to mitigate against human and software errors that could cause a fatal accident.

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Branson’s Video Statement on NTSB Findings

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WSJ: Expert Had Urged SpaceShipTwo Be Grounded Before Fatal Flight

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Part of SpaceShipTwo's fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The Wall Street Journal‘s Andy Pasztor and Jon Ostrower have a detailed and damning story on Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites on the eve of the National Transportation Safety Board’s meeting about last October’s crash of SpaceShipTwo.

Engineers over the years had complained about excessive risk and questionable flight controls, with one even urging a halt to flight tests and asking regulators to step in. Those alleged problems, however, have no apparent connection with the sequence of events that culminated in the crash, according to government and industry officials. Yet they do underscore what were nagging concerns among some engineers about inadequate safety margins and a haste to fly….

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Virgin Galactic Focused on Larger Satellite Launch Vehicle

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Artist's conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Artist’s conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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One Web Announces $500 Million Funding Round, Launch Contracts for Soyuz, LauncherOne

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OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

Highlights

  • OneWeb announces $500 million funding round for 900 satellite constellation
  • Backers include Airbus Group, Coca-Cola, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Hughes Network Systems and Virgin Galactic
  • Largest commercial rocket order ever includes 21 Soyuz launchers and 39 launches of Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne

LONDON (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb, which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, today announces it has raised $500 million of funding from a group of leading international companies.

OneWeb has attracted investment from Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, (Hughes), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, the Virgin Group, and Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company, owned by Ricardo B. Salinas.

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Branson: Virgin Galactic Costing Lots of Money

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Richard Branson speaks to the press at the Mojave Air and Space Port about the crash off SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson speaks to the press at the Mojave Air and Space Port about the crash off SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson has suggested that Virgin Galactic’s burn rate is $14 million per month (according to an interview with The Independent) or $15 million or month (according to The Express). That would put annual expenses at between $168 and $180 million.

If that’s the burn rate, it will go up quite a bit when flight testing resumes on SpaceShipTwo. Powered flights of the vehicle are reported to cost close to $1 million apiece.

Branson also says he’s trying to raise $400 million for OneWeb, the global satellite Internet program headed by Greg Wyler.  The Virgin Group is an investor in the company and plans to launch a portion of the 900 plus satellites in the constellation with its LauncherOne rocket.

New Mexico Has Lengthy Wait for Commercial SpaceShipTwo Flights

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The second SpaceShipTwo under construction. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The second SpaceShipTwo under construction. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

BBC Transport Correspondent trekked out to Mojave to pay a visit to Virgin Galactic. He found the second SpaceShipTwo — which the company had planned to complete by April — still a long way from being airworthy and CEO George Whitesides reluctant to make predictions.

Then we spar over flight dates. In the end, the best I could get was that paying customers could be up within 18 months to two years, maybe sooner, but not much longer, so not five years, for example….

Virgin have been building a new spaceship since 2012, tucked away in a shiny hangar being battered by the desert wind. They showed us how it’s coming along.
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New Virgin Galactic PR Approach Already Sunk

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 Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic’s new public relations strategy has been torpedoed less than two weeks after it was publicly rolled out.

On March 31, NBC New’s Alan Boyle wrote about the company’s new approach to managing expectations:

“…there’s one lesson they’re willing to share: Don’t say too much about what you’re planning to do before you do it.

Before the accident, company founder Richard Branson issued statements saying SpaceShipTwo would fly paying passengers to the edge of space within one to three years — whether that translated into 2007, or 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015.

“Sometimes people misinterpreted those as firm dates or promises,” said Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s vice president for projects, “so we don’t want to repeat that mistake.”

It seems like the boss didn’t get the memo about the new strategy. Following a visit to Mojave on Thursday, Branson issued yet another prediction.

“There is going to be about a one-year delay,” he told Bloomberg Television, adding the team was working “day and night” on the next SpaceShipTwo.

A year’s delay from what point was not clear. If it’s from the time of the accident last Oct. 31, that would put the first commercial flight toward the end of the first quarter of 2016. Prior to the crash, Branson was predicting that first flight in the first quarter of this year.

The new timeline doesn’t appear to be very credible. Following the loss of SpaceShipTwo, officials had predicted they would have the second spacecraft completed within about six months. With that deadline now approaching, they are now talking about having the new SpaceShipTwo ready for ground tests by the end of the year.

Branson Visits Mojave

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Richard Branson was in Mojave this morning to visit the troops over at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company. Apparently, work on the second SpaceShipTwo has “advanced tremendously” and the shop floor is buzzing.

After the crash in October, Virgin Galactic said it would have the second spaceship completed in five or six months. That would be about now. They don’t appear to be anywhere close to that goal; they’re now talking about have the spaceship ready for ground testing by the end of the year.

In lieu of a completed spaceship, a visit by Branson with photos and the appropriate expressions that all is going well is the next best thing.