Tag: Richard Branson

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Branson Announces Virgin Involvement in OneWeb Satellite Effort

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

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

STUART, Fla., January 15, 2015 (Virgin Group PR) — Writing in his blog today, Sir Richard Branson announced plans to launch the world’s largest ever satellite constellation.

Delighted to share news of an incredibly exciting project that could transform the world: we are creating a new constellation of satellites to make high speed internet and telephony available to billions of people who don’t currently have access.

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Broadband Satellite Constellation Obtains Financing From Virgin Group, Qualcomm

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Greg Wyler

Greg Wyler

OneWeb Ltd., formerly known known as WorldVu Satellites Ltd., has received financing from Virgin Group and to launch a constellation of 650 satellites to provide global broadband coverage, according to media reports. Space News reports on the company led by Greg Wyler:

The OneWeb network is currently designed as some 650 125-kilogram satellites operating at 1,200 kilometers in altitude, each capable of delivering at least 8 gigabits per second of throughput to provide Internet access to homes and mobile platforms.

Based in Britain’s Channel Islands, OneWeb has begun work on user terminals whose antennas — combining mechanical steering and a phased-array antenna — would measure 36 centimeters by 16 centimeters. They would provide Internet access at 50 megabits per second.

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2014: The Year We Discovered Space is Hard (Part II)

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SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo disintegrates as its two tail booms fall away. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Second in a Series

Three Deaths in the Desert

Within the space of a week in October, there were two fatal crashes in the Mojave Desert that claimed the lives of three pilots. One accident attracted intense international media coverage; the other received little notice outside the area. The crashes and the reactions to them tell us a lot about the current states of aviation and space travel.

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Richard Branson Reflects on SpaceShipTwo Tragedy

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Sir Richard Branson "high tens" with SpaceShip2 test pilot Mark Stuckey following the successful first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo. At left is Mark Stuckey's wife Cheryl and at right is Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides..  The spacecraft was dropped rom its "mothership", WhiteKnight2 over the Mojave, CA area, April 29, 2013 at high altitude before firing its hybrid power motor. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Sir Richard Branson “high tens” with SpaceShip2 test pilot Mark Stuckey following the successful first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo. At left is Mark Stuckey’s wife Cheryl and at right is Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides.. The spacecraft was dropped rom its “mothership”, WhiteKnight2 over the Mojave, CA area, April 29, 2013 at high altitude before firing its hybrid power motor. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Richard Branson has posted a message that he sent to Virgin Galactic ticket holders about the crash of SpaceShipTwo and the death of Mike Alsbury in October. The post — and the reader comments below it — are worth a look.

There are a couple of noteworthy sections:

“As I travelled from my home to Mojave that Friday evening, I found myself questioning seriously for the first time, whether in fact it was right to be backing the development of something that could result in such tragic circumstances.”

Too little, too late.

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Video: Branson Comments on SpaceShipTwo Accident, Talks Future

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Editor’s Note: The number of engineers working on the project seems to have shrunk from 400 or more down to 350. Branson also makes a few questionable assertions in the video. Rather than me pointing them out, see if you can spot them.

Paris Match has the full interview here (in French).

What Scaled, Virgin & Peter Diamandis Said After Last Fatal SpaceShipTwo Program Accident

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

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

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The crash of SpaceShipTwo and the tragic loss of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury were stark reminders that despite all the promises about the safety of new space tourism vehicles, space travel is a dangerous business where death can come in seconds.

If outsiders were stunned by the tragedy, it had a sickeningly familiar feel to long-time Mojave denizens. Mike Alsbury was not the first Scaled employee to die developing SpaceShipTwo for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceline. He was the fourth. Three engineers preceded him seven years earlier in a horrific accident at the Mojave spaceport.

The  2007 tragedy was quite different from the one that occurred over Jawbone Canyon on Halloween. The response to it was both different and eerily familiar.

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