Tag: Richard Branson

New Virgin Galactic PR Approach Already Sunk

Comments
 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

Comments

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.

Mojave Returns to Normal as Virgin Galactic Gets Back “On Track”

Comments
Credit: Virgin Galactic

Credit: Virgin Galactic

Following the loss of SpaceShipTwo on Halloween, Richard Branson promised Virgin Galactic would redouble its efforts to have the second SpaceShipTwo completed and start testing by April.

Now that April has arrived, NBC News’ Alan Boyle — whose parent company has a multi-platform promotional deal with Virgin — has checked in to see how things are progressing. Apparently, not very rapidly.

Continue reading ‘Mojave Returns to Normal as Virgin Galactic Gets Back “On Track”’

Virgin Galactic Releases New Video, Gets Visit From Electric Race Car

17 Comments

Video Caption: An introduction to our Spaceship Propulsion Team, narrated by Propulsion Program Manager, Jarret Morton, including behind the scenes shots of our manufacturing facilities.

Editor’s Note: Jarret describes Virgin’s hybrid propulsion system as “game changing.” I don’t know about that. Musk, XCOR, et.al., are moving toward reusable liquid bi-props that promise to bring down launch costs. Virgin has a reusable ship whose engine must be replaced after every flight. That’s very costly.

Morton was nominated by his peers as one of the Virgin Stars of the Year for 2013. The honor included a trip to a big party at the Branson mansion in England.

Editor’s Note: Branson has strongly hinted that he plans to use his electric race cars as a foundation to challenge fellow billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors. He claims to have teams working on the technology.

This generated a lot of headlines, as most pronouncements involving Branson and Musk do. It’s a pretty tall order, especially given Tesla’s massive head start. We’ll see what — if anything — comes of it.

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

10 Comments

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

Comments

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

26 Comments

branson_kissing_sstwo
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

Comments

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

60 Comments
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?

29 Comments
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?’