Blue Origin Announces Two Passengers for Oct. 12; William Shatner Not Mentioned

Chris Boshuizen (left) and Glen de Vries (right). (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin announced New Shepard’s 18th mission, NS-18, will lift off on Tuesday, October 12, carrying four astronauts to space and back, including Dr. Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer and co-founder of Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, Vice-Chair, Life Sciences & Healthcare, Dassault Systèmes and co-founder, Medidata. The two other astronauts will be announced in the coming days.

[Editor’s Note: TMZ.com reported Star Trek actor William Shatner will be aboard the upcoming flight. There’s been no confirmation of that report.]

Live launch coverage begins on BlueOrigin.com at T-60 minutes. Liftoff is currently targeted for 8:30 am CDT/ 13:30 UTC from Launch Site One in West Texas. 

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Virgin Galactic’s Former Flight Test Director Disputes Company’s Version of Off Course Flight with Richard Branson Aboard

Richard Branson and other passengers float around in weightlessness. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s recently fired flight test director claims that pilot error, not upper-level winds, resulted in the company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle flying outside of its assigned airspace during a July 11 suborbital flight test that carried the company’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson. He suggested an independent investigation instead of a company-led one might be required to address the mishap.

Mark Stucky, who Virgin Galactic fired eight days after Branson’s flight, said his former employer put out an inaccurate statement about why VSS Unity flew unauthorized into Class A airspace for 1 minute 41 seconds during its descent. Class A airspace is primarily used by airlines, cargo operators and higher performance aircraft.

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Virgin Galactic Raises Ticket Prices to $450,000, Delays Commercial Flights 2 Quarters, and Reports $94 Million 2nd Quarter Net Loss

Richard Branson and other passengers float around in weightlessness. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On July 11, Richard Branson returned from a suborbital journey declaring the start of a new era of flight that would make outer space open to everyone, and promoting a raffle for two averagenauts to fly aboard early flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Today, Virgin Galactic announced it was hiking the cost of those seats from $250,000 to $450,000 for new ticket buyers. It was the second time the company has raised ticket prices even before any paying passengers have flown. In 2013, the price rose from $200,000 to $250,000. The first paying passengers haven’t even flown yet.

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“Test God” Out as Virgin Galactic’s Director of Flight Test

Well, one day you’re a “God,” the next day you’re on the unemployment line.

Such was fate of Mark Stucky, who was Virgin Galactic’s lead pilot and director of flight test. On Tuesday, he announced on his Linkedin page that he had left the position. When asked why, he replied,

“Departing a company not on my own timeline was a first for me.”

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Russia Switches to Year-Long Space Station Missions, Doubles Up on Tourist Flights as NASA Gravy Train Ends

This image shows the planned configuration of six iROSA solar arrays intended to augment power on the International Space Station. The roll-up arrays arrive on the SpaceX-22 resupply mission. (Credits: NASA/Johnson Space Center/Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin has said that Russia will extend cosmonaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from six to 12 months in order to gather data needed for missions to the moon and Mars.

“We are talking about stable operations that will be carried out as part of yearly expeditions. Now this will be placed on a systemic basis with the corresponding system of biomedical researches. Year-long expeditions are what we need,” Rogozin said.

Well, that sounds good. Far sighted, even visionary. That’s what makes it so odd; these are not words normally associated with the Roscosmos boss. Something else seems to be going on here.

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Scratch Ashton Kutcher From List of Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts

Ashton Kutcher, no longer a future millionaut. (Credit: David Shankbone)

Remember back in 2012 when Ashton Kutcher bought a ticket on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo? And how Richard Branson’s company made a big deal of it being the 500th ticket? And how commercial flights were only 12-18 months away?

No? Well, don’t feel too bad. I forgot about it too, until this week.

Mashable reports it ain’t going to happen.

“I was booked on a flight to go to space and, in fact, I’m quite rueful about the fact that I am not going to space,” Kutcher said, “My wife asked me to sell my ticket to space because she didn’t think that it was a smart family decision.”

His wife being actress Mila Kunis. Kutcher is not the only celebrity to bag out on Virgin. Princess Beatrice of the UK canceled after VSS Enterprise crashed on Oct. 31, 2014.

Back in 2010, Katy Perry bought a ticket for fiancé Russell Brand. A source told Parabolic Arc that she got a refund after the relationship broke up.

Sweepstakes Launched to Win Seats on Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Suborbital Flights

Richard Branson and other passengers float around in weightlessness. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LOS ANGELES (Omaze PR) — Omaze, the charity fundraising platform that offers the chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences and prizes, and Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic Founder, announced they will give away two seats on a Virgin Galactic commercial flight. The Omaze sweepstakes will support Space for Humanity, a nonprofit seeking to democratize space and send citizen astronauts of diverse racial, economic, and disciplinary backgrounds to space.

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Virgin Galactic to Sell Up to $500 Million in Common Stock

Richard Branson and other passengers float around in weightlessness. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic Holdings
Full Document

We have entered into a distribution agency agreement (the “Distribution Agency Agreement”) with Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC (“Credit Suisse”), Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC (“Morgan Stanley”) and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC (collectively with Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, the “Agents”), dated July 12, 2021, relating to the sale of shares of our common stock offered by this prospectus supplement and the accompanying prospectus. In accordance with the terms of the Distribution Agency Agreement, we may offer and sell shares of our common stock, $0.0001 par value per share, having an aggregate offering price of up to $500,000,000 from time to time through or to the Agents, acting as our agents or as principal.

Our common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) under the symbol “SPCE”. On July 9, 2021, the last reported sale price of our common stock was $49.20 per share.

Sales of our common stock, if any, under this prospectus supplement and the accompanying prospectus will be made in sales deemed to be “at the market offerings” as defined in Rule 415 promulgated under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act. No Agent is required to sell any specific amount of securities, but each will act as our sales agent using commercially reasonable efforts consistent with its normal trading and sales practices. There is no arrangement for funds to be received in any escrow, trust or similar arrangement.

The Agents will be entitled to compensation at a commission rate of up to 2.0% of the gross sales price per share sold under the Distribution Agency Agreement. See “Plan of Distribution” beginning on page S-11 for additional information regarding the compensation to be paid to the Agents. In connection with the sale of shares of our common stock on our behalf, the Agents will be deemed to be “underwriters” within the meaning of the Securities Act and the compensation of the Agents will be deemed to be underwriting commissions or discounts. We have also agreed to provide indemnification and contribution to the Agents with respect to certain liabilities, including liabilities under the Securities Act.

Investing in our common stock involves risks. You should read carefully and consider the risks referenced under “Risk Factors” beginning on page S-6 of this prospectus supplement, as well as the other information contained in or incorporated by reference in this prospectus supplement and the accompanying prospectus before making a decision to invest in our securities.

Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or passed upon the accuracy or adequacy of this prospectus supplement or the accompanying prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard Set to Fly with Jeff Bezos and Wally Funk on July 20

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard is go for launch. On July 20, Blue Origin will fly its 16th New Shepard flight to space, and its first with astronauts on board. The launch will be broadcast live on BlueOrigin.com beginning at 6:30 am CDT / 11:30 UTC. Liftoff is currently targeted for 8:00 am CDT / 13:00 UTC.

Following the launch, a live press conference with the astronauts will be broadcast on BlueOrigin.com

Blue Origin’s Launch Site One is in a remote location in the West Texas desert and there are no on-site public viewing areas in the vicinity of the launch site. The Texas Department of Transportation will be closing a portion of State Highway 54 adjacent to the launch site and will not allow spectators on the closed portion of the road during the launch. 

Follow @BlueOrigin on Twitter and sign up on BlueOrigin.com to stay up to date on all mission details. 

-Gradatim Ferociter 

Editor’s Note: The FAA also approved Blue Origin this week to carry passengers on New Shepard. So maybe we’ll finally find out who is paying $29.68 million ($28 million plus 5% fee) to fly above the Karman line (100 km/62.1 miles) with Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark and aviatrix Wally Funk.

Virgin Galactic Successfully Completes First Fully Crewed Spaceflight

Richard Branson and other passengers float around in weightlessness. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
  • Fourth Spaceflight Tests Private Astronaut and Research Experience
  • First In-Flight Livestream Brings Spaceflight Experience to Audiences Around the World 

LAS CRUCES, N.M. July 11, 2021 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“the Company” or “Virgin Galactic”) today announced that VSS Unity successfully reached space, completing the Company’s fourth rocket-powered spaceflight. 

Today’s flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America.

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NBC Today Show Segment with Richard Branson About Upcoming Virgin Galactic Suborbital Flight

Video Caption: At his SpacePort in New Mexico, where he is preparing to ride to the edge of space, this weekend, beating another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, by just over a week, Sir Richard Branson shared an exclusive look behind the scenes, including the spaceship he and five others will be flying in. NBC’s Tom Costello reports for TODAY from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Editor’s Note: Everyone who sees SpaceShipTwo and goes crazy over it like Tom Costello does in this report. The vehicle is, as Branson says in the video, what you imagine a spaceship should look like. He has on multiple occasions accurately referred to it as “sexy”. Personally, it was one of the few things in Mojave that reminded me I am living in the 21st century.

But, looks can be deceiving. It’s a complex vehicle that requires two pilots to fly. The nitrous oxide SpaceShipTwo uses is a monopropellant, meaning it can explode on its own. It did once, claiming three the lives of three engineers working on the engine in an accident that NBC seems to have forgotten about. And the ship needs to be reconfigured for reentry using twin tail booms known as the feather. Premature unlocking of the system caused a fourth fatality and destroyed the first SpaceShipTwo.

Those specific issues have been addressed. But, the ship is still risky to fly on; it is rocket science. And there are no mandatory safety regulations to protect anyone on board. The technology is very much on the edge.

It’s kind of disturbing to see a reporter getting all excited and asking Branson when he can fly on it. He got seduced by the look of the vehicle and the excitement of the flight without fully understanding the risks or conveying them to viewers.

Costello was also talking to a guy who is a major risk taker. Branson included an appendix in his latest autobiography that chronicles 75 near-death experiences he has had in his life. The man thrives on facing danger and the enormous public attention his actions generate.

I don’t know if SpaceShipTwo flight is the riskiest thing he has ever done, but it’s pretty high up on the list. And this upcoming flight on Sunday is a test. SpaceShipTwo is still in a test flight program that has lasted 11 years.

The flight on Sunday will in all likelihood go just fine. But, space travel remains risky. It’s not simply a souped-up rollercoaster ride.