Tag: Richard Branson

Character, Candor & Competence: Lessons From the SpaceShipTwo Crash

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SpaceShipTwo right boom wreckage. (Credit: NTSB)

SpaceShipTwo right boom wreckage. (Credit: NTSB)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

One of the most interesting aspects of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the SpaceShipTwo crash was how it pulled back the curtain on what was actually going on in the program being undertaken in Mojave. Over the years, the rhetoric has been frequently at odds with reality.

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Who Will Become the World’s First Commercial Spaceline?

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New Shepard booster executes a controlled vertical landing at 4.2 mph. (Credit: Blue Origin)

New Shepard booster executes a controlled vertical landing at 4.2 mph. (Credit: Blue Origin)

With Blue Origin’s successful re-flight of its reusable New Shepard booster and capsule on Friday, the company jumped ahead in the competition to fly people into space on a commercial basis.

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Former Propulsion Chief Accuses Virgin Galactic of Lying About SpaceShipTwo’s Safety, Performance

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SpaceShipTwo after being released for its final flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/NTSB)

SpaceShipTwo after being released for its final flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/NTSB)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s former vice president of propulsion, Thomas Markusic, has accused Richard Branson’s space company of lying about the safety and performance of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle.

“Dr. Markusic was forced to separate from VG [Virgin Galactic] because the company was defrauding the public about the ability of the vehicles to reach space and was utilizing rocket engine technologies that have a high probability of causing catastrophic failure and loss of life,” according to the document.

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Will Virgin Galactic Name its Next SpaceShipTwo “Unity”?

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

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

Virgin Galactic filed applications in November to trademark the names “Unity” and “VSS Unity”, giving a strong hint about the name of the second SpaceShipTwo the company plans to unveil on Feb. 19.

VSS stands for Virgin Space Ship. The first SpaceShipTwo, which was destroyed in a flight test on Oct. 31, 2014, was named VSS Enterprise.

The applications identify launch services as the goods and services to be delivered under the “Unity” and “VSS Unity” trademarks.

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking is set to name the vehicle during the roll out ceremony next month if he is healthy enough to travel to Mojave, Calif. from his home in England.  Virgin Founder Richard Branson will preside over the event.

Scotland Seen in Lead for UK Spaceport as Branson Weighs in

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UK_spaceport_candidates_shorterlistScotland is seen as being in the lead to host the UK’s first spaceport as government officials refine their selection criteria and Richard Branson expressed a hope that Virgin Galactic would fly from the facility.

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Stephen Hawking to Help Name Virgin Galactic’s Second SpaceShipTwo

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Stephen Hawking (Credit: NASA)

Stephen Hawking (Credit: NASA)

UPDATE: Looks as if the unveiling will be on Friday, Feb. 19, here in Mojave.

Stephen Hawking will name the second SpaceShipTwo vehicle when it is rolled out of its hangar next month in Mojave, Calif.

Sir Richard has invited the theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking to name the new plane at the unveiling. He has already offered the scientist Virgin Galactic’s only free ticket into space – which Professor Hawking has accepted, provided his health allows it.

“Obviously, we had a year’s delay after the accident and it’s tremendous that Stephen Hawking has agreed to come and name the new spaceship,” Sir Richard said.

“He has made it very clear that he thinks mankind and womankind need to work very hard to try to colonise other planets and that space is very important for people back here on Earth,” he said.

Hawking has a free ticket on SpaceShipTwo which now costs a cool $250,000 (up from $20o,000 in 2013). The PR benefits of having the world-famous physicist involved in the roll out ceremony is probably well worth the cost. And it’s the least Hawking can do for such a generous gift.

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Branson: Virgin Galactic Leading the Way in Clean Spaceflight

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SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Richard Branson is once again talking up how clean his space program is despite all objective evidence to the contrary.

“We are doing everything we can to try to work towards turning the world into a place that’s run by clean energy, not dirty energy. We’ve managed to reduce the amount of energy, of carbon output, to get somebody into space … to less than a round-trip, economy class, from London to New York,” he said.
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Missing the Significance of Blue Origin’s Landing Milestone

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It has occurred to me in recent days that the significance Blue Origin’s landing of its New Shepard rocket and capsule last month has been totally misconstrued by the public, press and most of the commentators on this blog. Now, I don’t really blame them for this; I blame Jeff Bezos.

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Stephen Hawking Might Help Unveil Second SpaceShipTwo in February

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Video Caption: Professor Stephen Hawking is one of the people I admire most in the world, an undisputed genius who has opened our eyes to the wonders of the universe, while also happening to be a kind and delightful man. He is the only person I have given a free ticket with Virgin Galactic, and he is signed up to fly as a Future Astronaut with us if his health permits it.

We all wish Stephen the very best as he continues his recovery from recent health issues. We are very honoured that Stephen has agreed to help us unveil our new spaceship in February if he is feeling well enough. He has long been an inspirational for all the team, as well as an enthusiastic advocate for our goals of democratising access to space for the benefit of life on earth. Ahead of that milestone, our brilliant Astronaut Relations team recently arranged an event for our Future Astronauts with Professor Hawking at Cambridge University, on a day centred on the theme of astronomy.

Updated: Firefly Board Member Sues to Stop Alleged Virgin Galactic “Fishing Expedition”

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firefly_space_systems_logoA member of Firefly Space Systems board of directors has filed suit in Los Angeles to overturn an arbitrator’s judgment that he turn documents over to rival Virgin Galactic in a dispute between Virgin and its former vice president of propulsion.

Patrick Joseph (P.J.) King filed the action on Tuesday in a case involving Tom Markusic, who left Virgin Galactic to form Firely with King in early 2014.

“After Dr. Markusic left Galactic, [Richard] Branson sued his ex-employee the the Arbitration, falsely accusing of Dr. Markusic of breaking his former employment agreement by ‘stealing’ what apparently is nothing more than standard open-source technical information which is available in the academic literature, that Galactic claims are someone ‘trade secrets'”, the suit reads.

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The Promise of Spaceport America in the Words of its Supporters

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Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

“This business will mark a milestone in world history, and it will launch a new space industry — a private space industry, driven by innovators and entrepreneurs and new technologies and bold thinkers.”
— Richard Branson

“What we are calling the second space age will open up a wide range of commercial opportunities, including point-to-point cargo delivery, with personal and business travel.”
— Gov. Bill Richardson

Ten years ago today, Virgin Galactic and New Mexico announced a deal for development what became known as Spaceport America. New Mexico would built a $225-million spaceport with taxpayer’s dollars in the desert near Truth or Consequences. Sir Richard Branson’s new space company would sign a 20-year lease to fly tourists aboard SpaceShipTwo from the facility beginning in 2008.  New Mexico also expected the spaceport to be used by UP Aerospace, Starchaser Industries, and Peter Diamandis’ Rocket Racing League and X Prize Cup.

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NM & Virgin Galactic Announced Spaceport America Deal 10 Years Ago

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Early Spaceport America artwork showed facilities built underground. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Early Spaceport America artwork showed facilities built underground. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Space Tourism Flashback
10 Years Ago Today

SANTE FE, NM, Dec. 14, 2005 (Gov. Bill Richardson PR) — Governor Bill Richardson and Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Companies, today announced that Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial space tourism business, will locate its world headquarters and Mission Control in New Mexico. The agreement between the State of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic calls for New Mexico to build a $225 million spaceport in the southern part of the state, on 27- square miles of state land.

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Video of Virgin Galactic 747 Unveiling Event

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Video Caption: Cosmic Girl, a 747-400, is Virgin Galactic’s newest vehicle in our space access fleet and the new, dedicated carrier aircraft for our LauncherOne small satellite launcher. Meet some of Cosmic Girl’s stewards and learn why a 747 is the right choice for small satellite launch.

Virgin Galactic Unveils 747 for LauncherOne Flights

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LauncherOne ignites after being released from Galactic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, December 3, 2015 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic introduced the newest addition to its fleet of vehicles today as part of a technical update on its LauncherOne small satellite launch service. The 747-400 commercial jet aircraft, previously operated by Virgin Atlantic under the nickname ‘Cosmic Girl,’ will provide a dedicated launch platform for the LauncherOne orbital vehicle. Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic engineers announced the acquisition of the aircraft while providing an update on LauncherOne development progress.

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Video: Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides at ISPCS

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Video Caption: Virgin Galactic will be Earth’s first spaceline, aiming to open access to space for new human and satellite customers. Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides will share his views on the economic opportunities for space and the latest progress of SpaceShipTwo, which will take private citizens to space, and the development of launch services through LauncherOne.