Tag: Richard Branson

BBC Asks: Should the Poor Fund Space Travel on Virgin Galactic?

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The dream of space tourism has captured the imagination of many, including the British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. He wants to to pioneer commercial space flight but his aspirations have run into trouble in the deserts of New Mexico. Politicians there aren’t happy that local taxpayers are helping to fund the space port and, so far, the job opportunities promised, have not materialised. Everything’s on hold while Virgin Galactic builds a new spaceship and as Matt Wells reports from the state capital Santa Fe, the debate is raging.

(Photo: A security guard mans the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft carrier outside the Spaceport American Spaceport America Terminal Hangar Facility in New Mexico. Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

New Book to Cover Virgin Galactic’s First Decade

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virgin_galactic_10_years_bookErik Seedhouse has a new book coming out later this month about Virgin Galactic. A description from the book’s Amazon.com page:

Thirty years ago when Sir Richard Branson called up Boeing and asked if they had a spare 747, few would have predicted the brash entrepreneur would so radically transform the placid business of air travel. But today, Branson flies airlines on six continents, employs hundreds of jets and, in 2014, was predicting that his spaceship company – Virgin Galactic – would soon open the space frontier to commercial astronauts, payload specialists, scientists and space tourists. With more than 600 seats sold at $250,000 each, what started off as a dream to send people just for the excitement to look back and marvel at Earth, was on the cusp of finally being turned into a business.

Then, on October 21, 2014, tragedy struck. SpaceShipTwo was on its most ambitious test flight to date. Seconds after firing its engine, Virgin Galactic’s spaceship was breaking through the sound barrier. In just the three seconds that it took for the vehicle to climb from Mach 0.94 to Mach 1.02, co-pilot Mike Alsbury made what many close to the event believe was a fatal mistake that led to his death and the disintegration of SpaceShipTwo. Miraculously, the pilot, Peter Siebold, survived the 16-km fall back to Earth.

Soon after the event Branson vowed to continue his space tourism venture in spite of this. Already a second SpaceShipTwo is being built, and ticket-holders eagerly await the day when Virgin Galactic offers quick, routine and affordable access to the edge of space. This book explains the hurdles Virgin Galactic had and still has to overcome en route to developing suborbital space travel as a profitable economic entity, and describes the missions that will be flown on board SpaceShipTwo Mk II, including high-altitude science studies, astronomy, life sciences, and microgravity physics.

Musk, Page, Bezos & Branson Lead List of Disruptive Innovators

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk, Google’s Larry Page, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson has been named the most effective CEO’s in achieving disruptive innovation among established companies in a new survey.

The poll was conducted by Big Think, where important people ponder big things, and the Singularity University, which puts the exponent in  exponential technology.  The poll was apparently taken in January and involved an unidentified number of Singularity University program participants.

The four men, who are heavily invested in various space projects,  beat out such business luminaries as Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Ma of Alibaba.

Number of Billionaires Investing in Space Projects Grows

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Forbes has published its annual list of the planet’s billionaires. A small but growing number of them are either directly supporting major space projects or doing so through the companies that they run.

FORBES RANK NAME AGE
2015 NET WORTH (BILLIONS)
SOURCE(S) OF WEALTH
SPACE INVESTMENT(S)
 15 Jeff Bezos 51  $34.8 Amazon.com Blue Origin
16 Mark Zuckerberg 30
 $33.4 Facebook Global satellite network
19 Larry Page 41 $29.7  Google SpaceX, Planetary Resources, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
20 Sergey Brin  41  $29.2 Google SpaceX, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
43 Charles Ergen 62 $19.8 DISH Network DISH Network
51 Paul Allen 62  $17.5  Microsoft, investments Stratolaunch Systems, SETI, Mojave Aerospace Ventures (SpaceShipOne)
100 Elon Musk 43 $12 PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCity SpaceX
137 Eric Schmidt 59 $9.1 Google SpaceX, Google Lunar X Prize, Planetary Ventures, Skybox
330 Richard Branson
64 $4.8 Virgin Group Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, OneWeb
1006 Kavitark Ram Shriram 58 $1.9 Google, venture capital Planetary Resources
1105 H. Ross Perot, Jr. 56 $1.8  Computer services, real estate Planetary Resources
1324 Charles Simonyi  67 $1.4 Microsoft Planetary Resources
1415 Peter Sperling 55 $1.3 University of Phoenix Ecliptic Enterprises

I’ve added Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to the list this year. His company is reportedly working on a global broadband network that would involve satellites, although details of the plan have not been made public.

I’ve left off Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte, who came in at number 1006 with a net worth of $1.9 billion. Although he once took a trip to the International Space Station, he is not known to be funding any major space projects at the moment.

Update: I’ve added Charles Ergen and Peter Sperling to the list. Big shout out to Rex Ridenoure over at Ecliptic Enterprises.

Virgin Galactic’s Sales Numbers Don’t Add Up

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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)

I’ve been doing a bit of research into Virgin Galactic over the last few days.  I’ve come to a realization that the company’s ticket sales and cancellation numbers don’t add up in the wake of SpaceShipTwo’s crash.

Prior to the crash, Richard Branson was claiming the company had 800 ticket holders, or close to that number. He reiterated the figure three days after the crash in an interview on “CBS This Morning”. Continue reading ‘Virgin Galactic’s Sales Numbers Don’t Add Up’

Will Virgin Galactic Suffer More Delays Due to Richard Branson’s Environmental Efforts?

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Richard Branson, GREY GOOSE creator and Maître de Chai François Thibault, and George Whitesides toast to a new partnership. (Credit: Grey Goose)

Richard Branson, GREY GOOSE creator and Maître de Chai François Thibault, and George Whitesides toast to a new partnership. (Credit: Grey Goose)

The B Team, a group of high-level business leaders co-founded by Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson that’s committed “People Planet Profit”, has issued a call for “world leaders to commit to a global goal of net-zero greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 – and urged business leaders to match this ambition by committing to bold long-term targets.”

In a Feb. 5 press release, Sir Richard said, “Taking bold action on climate change simply makes good business sense. It’s also the right thing to do for people and the planet. Setting a net-zero GHG emissions target by 2050 will drive innovation, grow jobs, build prosperity and secure a better world for what will soon be 9 billion people. Why would we wait any longer to do that? It’s time for all of us to join forces and drive the transition to a thriving net-zero GHG emissions economy by 2050.”

Bold words. But, I have to wonder what would happen to Virgin Galactic if Branson actually took action on them.

Continue reading ‘Will Virgin Galactic Suffer More Delays Due to Richard Branson’s Environmental Efforts?’

How Richard Branson Has Been Funding Virgin Galactic

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Sir Richard Branson speaks to a group of future astronauts at the FAITH Hangar of Virgin Galactic in Mojave, CA September 25, 2013 in Mojave, CA. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Sir Richard Branson speaks to a group of future astronauts at the FAITH Hangar of Virgin Galactic in Mojave, CA September 25, 2013 in Mojave, CA. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

For anyone wondering how the Virgin Group has been funding Virgin Galactic over the past decade, the Financial Times had an excellent overview back in early November just after SpaceShipTwo crashed.

It seems that Virgin Galactic had sucked in up to $600 million in investment by that point, with nearly two-thirds of it from Abu Dhabi. The Virgin Group also has been funding the rest using profits from other parts of Sir Richard Branson’s empire.

For Galactic’s business model, Virgin followed a well-worn route. The group’s favoured start-up model relies on private investment for financing, with generally a co-investor sharing equity, and therefore the financial risk, often with a large amount of debt to the parent company loaded on to the balance sheet, a model it has followed at most of its businesses since the group’s brief but painful experience as a London-listed company in the 1980s.
Continue reading ‘How Richard Branson Has Been Funding Virgin Galactic’

2014 in Review: Mojave’s Difficult Year

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Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

“2014 will be a fun ride. We welcome you to get onboard, strap in and hold on!”

Stu Witt

CEO & General Manager
Mojave Air and Space Port
Jan. 9, 2014

Stu Witt had a lot of reasons to be optimistic as 2014 began. The Mojave spaceport was on a roll. On Jan. 10, Scaled Composites conducted the third powered flight of SpaceShipTwo in less than 9 months. XCOR was making steady progress on the Lynx and a new hydrogen engine for ULA, Stratolaunch was busy building the world’s largest aircraft, and other tenants such as Masten and Firestar had successes over the past year.

Continue reading ‘2014 in Review: Mojave’s Difficult Year’

Year in Review: A Look at Virgin Galactic Developments in 2014

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WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Continuing our look back at 2014, we review progress at Virgin Galactic. While the loss of SpaceShipTwo on Oct. 31 understandably dominated the headlines, there were a number of other newsworthy developments at the company last year.

Continue reading ‘Year in Review: A Look at Virgin Galactic Developments in 2014′

OneWeb to Provide Internet Services Worldwide

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Greg Wyler

Greg Wyler

STUART, Fla., Jan. 15, 2015 (OneWeb PR) — WorldVu Satellites Limited, operating as OneWeb, Ltd, today announced plans to build, launch and operate a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation to help bring high-speed Internet and telephony to billions of people around the world. Qualcomm Incorporated and The Virgin Group have been announced as initial investors, with Qualcomm Executive Chairman Dr. Paul Jacobs and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson to join OneWeb founder Greg Wyler on the company’s board of directors. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. OneWeb plans to bring in additional investors to fund construction, launch and operation of its system.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, as of the end of 2014, more than half the world’s population lacks Internet access. OneWeb, founded in 2012 under the name WorldVu, hopes to bring high-speed Internet and telephony to people living in underserved areas. The OneWeb satellite system introduces the first-ever telecom-class micro satellites. This projected fleet of 648 micro satellites is intended to provide low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals deployed around the world.

Continue reading ‘OneWeb to Provide Internet Services Worldwide’