Former Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn Takes Over UKspace

Will Whitehorn gives a pat on the back to Richard Branson as he greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders during the Oshkosh air show in 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

DIDCOT, England (UKspace PR) – Space industry pioneer and entrepreneur, Will Whitehorn, today takes over from Andy Green as President of UKspace, the trade association which represents the UK space industry.

Will, who was formerly President of Virgin Galactic, played a central role in the development and concept of commercial spaceflight, and now holds several non-executive roles at companies including the Royal Air Force, Good Energy PLC, Stagecoach Group PLC, AAC Clyde Space and Scottish Event Campus Ltd. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He was also awarded the 2010 Geoffrey Pardoe RAeS Space Award for services to the space industry.

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A Short Review of Virgin Galactic’s Long History

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Today, Sept. 27, marks the 15th anniversary of Richard Branson announcing the launch of Virgin Galactic Airways. It’s been a long, winding road between that day and today, filled with many broken promises, missed deadlines, fatal accidents and a pair of spaceflights.

This year actually marks a double anniversary: it’s been 20 years since Branson registered the company and began searching for a vehicle the company could use to fly tourists into suborbital space.

Below is a timeline of the important events over that period.

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Blue Origin Plans 2 More New Shepard Flights Before Flying People

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

CNBC reports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans two more flight tests of the reusable New Shepard booster and capsule before flying people on suborbital flights. The additional tests could delay the first human flight into next year.

CEO Bob Smith has talked about the first crewed flight of New Shepard happening as early as the end of 2018 – but that goal has steadily been pushed back. Smith, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, explained why Blue Origin has delayed the first crewed flight and continued to test.

“It’s really the robustness of our entire system. It’s not one individual thing that’s driving [these delays],” Smith said. “It’s us being cautious and thorough with the total systems we need to verify.”

He noted that Blue Origin has been pushing the limits of its software and hardware, as well as testing its BE-3 rocket engine for extreme and unexpected situations.

Blue Origin has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to conduct the 12th New Shepard launch no earlier than Nov. 1.

New Shepard consists of a reusable booster and capsule. The capsule lands by parachute while the booster touches down using landing legs.

Blue Origin has recovered the capsules and boosters on 10 of the 11 flights. On one flight, the booster crashed while the capsule landed safely.

The company has not announced when it will begin to sell tickets and what price it will charge. Tickets aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which expects to begin commercial suborbital flights next year, cost $250,000. Virgin Founder Richard Branson plans to be aboard the first commercial flight.

Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic: The Numbers Never Added Up

Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Fourteen years ago, Virgin Galactic and New Mexico promised “tens of thousands” of tourists would fly to space from Spaceport America by 2019. Total thus far: 0.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

When they announced in December 2005 that Virgin Galactic would locate its space tourism business in New Mexico, Virgin Founder Richard Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson made a number of eye-popping claims about why taxpayers should back a plan to build the Southwest Regional Spaceport to serve as the space tourism company’s home base:

  • $331 million in total construction revenues in 2007;
  • 2,460 construction-related jobs;
  • $1 billion in total spending, payroll of $300 million and 2,300 jobs by the fifth year of operation; and,
  • $750 million in total revenues and more than 3,500 jobs by 2020.

Virgin Galactic would sign a 20-year lease as anchor tenant and pay fees based on the number of launches it conducted. New Mexico would use the spaceport, Virgin’s presence and the funds generated to develop a large aerospace cluster.

Surprisingly, New Mexico would spend more money, $225 million, to develop a facility now known as Spaceport America than the $108 million that Branson planned to spend on developing a fleet of five SpaceShipTwos and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

Among all the big numbers in the announcement, there was a truly astounding one that was deemed so important it was mentioned twice. (Emphasis added)

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It’s Dead, Jim! ISRO Gives Up on Lunar Lander, Rover

Chandrayaan2 Vikram lander (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Well, it’s not the famous winter of Game of Thrones, but the 14-day lunar night has arrived where India’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover made what IRSO officials have called a “hard landing” two weeks ago with no communication between them and ground controllers.

Since neither vehicle was designed to survive the frigid temperatures of the lunar night, the Indian space agency has called it a day in a rather bare bones announcement.

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Virgin Galactic Reaches Milestone Building SpaceShipTwo No. 3

SpaceShipTwo no. 3 (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic announced today that it has mated the fuselage and cabin of its next spaceship to the completed wing assembly. In addition, the two tail booms have been mated to the spaceship’s rear feather flap assembly. The completion of these two milestones brings assembly of the next SpaceShipTwo, planned to enter service after VSS Unity, a major step forward. 

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Virgin Galactic-Social Capital Hedosophia Deal Goes Further

A view from inside the cockpit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

At a meeting on Monday, shareholders of Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH) gave approval to the public company to move forward with an $808 million merger deal with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

“Holders of 66,333,089 of the Company’s ordinary shares, which represents 76.9% of the ordinary shares outstanding and entitled to vote as of the record date of August 8, 2019, were represented in person or by proxy,” Social Capital said in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The shareholders approved two resolutions. The first extends the date for completing the merger from Sept. 18 to Dec. 18, 2019.

The second resolution “extends the date on which the Trustee must liquidate the trust account established in connection with the Company’s initial public offering” if the SCH and Virgin Galactic do not complete the merger by Dec. 18.

Under terms of the deal, SCH would own up to approximately 49% of the combined space tourism company, which would be publicly traded. SCH founder Chamath Palihapitiya would become chairman of the board.

For more details about the deal, read the announcement here.

A Closer Look at the Virgin Galactic-Social Capital Merger Deal

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As shareholders in Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia prepare to vote on an $808 million merger with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic on Monday, it seemed like a good time to take a closer look at it.

Fortunately, Virgin and Social Capital have filed a new 8K form with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that includes an updated PowerPoint document titled Analyst Day Presentation that is dated Sept. 5.

The presentation is 100 slides long. I’ve gone through and excerpted the highlights so that you don’t have to. But, if you want to read the whole thing, visit this page and scroll down.

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It’s Showtime for Virgin Galactic’s Latest Cash Infusion Plan

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

CityAM reports that Sir Richard Branson’s $808 million deal to merge Virgin Galactic with venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s Silicon Valley investment vehicle faces a crucial vote of confidence on Monday.

Would-be shareholders will vote on whether to back the entry via investment vehicle Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), or whether to withdraw their cash entirely.

SCH was formed in 2017 and already trades on the New York Stock Exchange. It plans to merge with Virgin Galactic, bringing the space travel venture onto the market in an unconventional move which would avoid the traditional risks of an Initial Public Offering.

The deadline for this is fast approaching, and looks set to be missed, however, which would see SCH go into liquidation.

In that case, investors get back $712m (£578m) next week. They will vote tomorrow on whether to allow this to happen or whether to postpone the deadline for a merger until December and subsequently keep their cash in the Virgin Galactic float.

Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia announced the merger, actually a reverse acquisition, two months ago. The deal would see Palihapitiya become chairman of the company and Adam Bain join the board. Bain previously served as chief operating officer of Twitter.

Virgin Galactic is currently spending about $16 million per month ($190 million annually),. according to a presentation filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Virgin Galactic previously received an investment of $390 million from an Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund. Branson broke off a MOU with Saudi Arabia for a $1 billion investment with an option for $480 million more in Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company.

Hunk-O-Mania to Send First Stripper to Space

A view from SpacehipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The Male Strip Revue Club in Talks with Virgin Atlantic to Send Dancer to Strip in Space

NEW YORK, Aug. 23, 2019 (Hunk-O-Mania PR — An interstellar strip show is in the works. Armand Peri, entrepreneur and founder of Hunk-O-Mania, a nationwide chain of male strip revues, is making history by sending one his dancers, Rudy Bundini, to space.

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A Brief History of Spaceport America

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

UPDATED: 8/20/19, 12:08 p.m. PDT

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Video: Virgin Galactic Opens Gateway to Space

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.

Virgin Galactic Opens the Doors to the ‘Gateway to Space’

Interior of the Gateway to Space in New Mexico. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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. 

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Bill Richardson Accused of Involvement in Jeffrey Epstein Sex Ring

Bill Richardson

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 Beast reports 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:

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Virgin Galactic Completes Wing for Third SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo wing (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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.

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