Sometime in 2020, if all goes according to plan, British billionaire Richard Branson will board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity at Spaceport America in New Mexico and take the first commercial suborbital space flight in history.
The landmark flight, which Virgin has been trying to conduct for 15 years, will also be the culmination of a 30-year effort by New Mexico to become a commercial space power.
Virgin Galactic opened its Gateway to Space at Spaceport America in New Mexico to the press on Thursday. The opening came nearly eight years after Sir Richard Branson opened the hangar/terminal facility during a dedication ceremony in October 2011.
Earlier this week, the WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve carrier aircraft relocated to Spaceport America from Mojave. Calif. SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity is set to join it later this year for a series of three or four additional suborbital flight tests.
Branson plans to be aboard the first commercial flight from the New Mexico spaceport next year.
LAS CRUCES, NM, August 15, 2019 (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic today revealed the first look at the interior fit-out of its Gateway to Space building at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The work completed showcased two floors of the building primarily focused on spaceflight operations, which also incorporates communal spaces designed for use in the future by Virgin Galactic customers, along with their friends and families. Completion of this interior work means the spaceport facility is now operationally functional and able to support Virgin Galactic’s flight requirements.
Bill Richardson, who pushed through the construction of the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport as governor of New Mexico, has been accused of involvement in a sex trafficking ring run by the deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein and socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
The Daily Beastreports on court documents that were unsealed last week in a defamation suit against Maxwell by a woman who claimed she was forced to have sex with Richardson and other prominent figures:
MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — The Spaceship Company (TSC), Virgin Galactic’s space-system manufacturing organization, has completed the systems install and main structure for the wing of the next spaceship in Virgin Galactic’s fleet. The completion of this significant assembly means that the team can begin preparing for the mate of the spaceship’s fuselage to the new wing and moves it closer to beginning its flight test program.
Ten years ago, Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny was sitting next to Sir Richard Branson at the Oshkosh air show signing a deal on behalf of Abu Dhabi to invest $280 million in the British billionaire’s space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic.
The wealthy CEO of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, aabar investments, likely had dreams of gazing down on Earth while floating in space aboard Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo.
Today, Al-Husseiny is sitting in a jail cell serving a 10-year sentence for financial crimes. He also has been implicated in one of the largest financial frauds in history involving the theft of more than $4 billion.
A Virgin Galactic spokeswoman tells me that SpaceShipTwo VSSUnity remains in Mojave as its passenger cabin is fitted out for commercial flights.
The spacecraft is set to join WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve at Spaceport America in New Mexico later this year to complete a series of flights that began in Mojave. Commercial suborbital flights are set to begin from there in 2020.
The company is planning an event on Thursday, Aug. 15, in which they will unveil the inside of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space in New Mexico.
Nearly eight years after Richard Branson dedicated the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space at Spaceport America before a crowd that included Titanic star Kate Winslet and British royal Princess Beatrice, his suborbital space tourism company is moving its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft there.
When Branson dedicated the gateway facility in October 2011, the giant building was largely empty. Virgin Galactic says it is now ready to show off what customers will experience inside the structure.
According to who you talk to, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed streamlining of launch and re-entry regulations is either a prudent step forward that provides much-needed flexibility while protecting public safety or a a confusing mess that’s a massive step backward.
Mike Alsbury never made it to space, but he will be honored on a memorial to fallen astronauts in Florida.
The Astronaut Memorial Foundation (AMF) has voted to add Alsbury’s name to the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The Scaled Composites pilot died over the Mojave Desert in the breakup of SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during a flight test on Oct. 31, 2014. Pete Siebold was seriously injured as he parachuted to safety.
AMF needed to change its criteria in order to place Alsbury’s name on the mirror. Previous rules limited the list to 24 men and women who died during human spaceflight missions or while in training for such missions sponsored by the United States government.
Alsbury was on a private flight test for his employer, which was developing the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle for Virgin Galactic. The flight was not scheduled to reach suborbital space, which the United States defines as 50 miles (80.4 km).
UK Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt announced a plan on Thursday to loan a Royal Air Force test pilot to Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, apparently so the aviator can earn astronaut wings with Virgin Galactic.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt Keynote Speech Air and Space Power Conference 2019 July 18, 2019 Full Speech
Excerpts About Space
And we should be a leading player in space. It won’t just help strengthen our industries. It’ll also provide an incredible opportunity to capture the imagination of a new generation and encourage them to get involved in aerospace.
Fifty years on from the moon landings we’re seeing SpaceX and other
private sector individuals and leaders coming into the sector and making
use of the technology. From satellite launches to more ambitious
It’s no longer a matter of if, but when, the first humans will walk on
Mars. And this year we might see the first routine tourist flights into
Virgin Galactic’s customer backlog would singlehandedly double the total number of humans to have ever gone to space
Virgin Galactic has developed a set of unique technologies designed to enable a safe and familiar flying experience for customers to go into space and become officially designated astronauts
Virgin Galactic’s technologies have created the first vehicle built for commercial service to put humans into space
Virgin Galactic already has customer reservations from more than 600 people in 60 countries representing approximately $80 million in total collected deposits and $120 million of potential revenue
Virgin Galactic has already been granted its FAA commercial space launch license, and the New Mexico Spaceport has also received its Spaceport license
Pro forma enterprise value of the merger is $1.5 billion and represents:
1.5x invested capital ($1 billion+ of capital invested to date)
2.5x estimated revenue for 2023
5.5x estimated EBITDA for 2023
Social Capital Hedosophia Founder and CEO, Chamath Palihapitiya, will invest an additional $100 million in the transaction and will become Chairman of the combined entity
NEW YORK, July 9, 2019 (Virgin Galactic/Social Capital Hedosophia) — VIRGIN GALACTIC (“VG”) and SOCIAL CAPITAL HEDOSOPHIA (“SCH”), a public investment vehicle sponsored by Social Capital and Hedosophia, announced that the boards of directors of each company have approved a definitive agreement under which VG and SCH will merge, with the current shareholders of SCH expected to own up to approximately 49% of the combined company. Upon closing of the transaction, which is expected in the second half of 2019, VG will be introduced as the first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company.
NASA is funding projects that will use the microgravity of the International Space Station (ISS) to improve sight-restoring retinal implants, produce high-value optical materials, and conduct research using organs-on-chips (OOCs).
These are three of seven proposals the space agency selected for funding last month under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program that utilize ISS or demonstrate technologies in low Earth orbit (LEO). Each phase 1 award is worth up to $125,000 over six months.
Other selected projects are focused on improving water recycling on crewed vehicles, facilitating on-orbit spacecraft refueling and storage, hosting payloads on satellite constellations, and automating the watering of plants on ISS.
As we previously reported, Stratolaunch is up for sale. Paul Allen’s sister Jody Allen, the executor of her brother’s estate, has no interest in continuing the development of the giant airplane, which is designed to air launch rockets.
CNBC reports on the eye popping price tag:
Holding company Vulcan is seeking to sell Stratolaunch for $400 million, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. Vulcan is the investment conglomerate of late billionaire Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder. Allen died last October following complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The hefty price tag includes ownership of the airplane as well as the intellectual property and facilities.
Stratolaunch is the world’s largest airplane by wingspan, which stretches 385 feet — longer than an American football field. The plane is powered by six jet engines salvaged from Boeing 747 aircraft.
Allen’s vision of a massive plane that can launch rockets from the air was at least partially fulfilled in April, when Stratolaunch flew for the first time after about eight years in development. Based at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, the giant airplane flew for more than two hours before landing after what was deemed a successful first flight.