Billionaire aims to go higher and faster next time
Virgin Galactic still can’t get SpaceShipTwo all the way up (to Karman line)
FAA throws in the towel on deciding who is and who isn’t an astronaut
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Earlier this month, Richard Branson and two Virgin Galactic employees received commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity flight test they took part in last July. The trio was the last group to receive the wings — FAA ended the program last year — and the honors came with a pretty big asterisk.
TASSreports that it is theoretically possible to reduce the time it takes to train a non-professional astronaut (aka, space tourists or spaceflight participants) to fly to orbit aboard the Soyuz spacecraft to under the current four months. Paying customers used to spend months in training prior to a flight.
At the end of a long article about the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) efforts to develop a virbrant space industry, The National revealed this bit of news from Ibrahim Al Qasim, deputy director general of the UAE Space Agency.
Mr Al Qasim revealed to The National that the agreement that was signed in 2019 with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to bring space tourism flights to Al Ain Airport is no longer in effect, without explaining further.
Instead, the country is now working with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to set up spaceports.
He said discussions with the company, which has already flown 20 people on its suborbital flights, are under way.
Any agreement to fly Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle would be dependent upon a technology safeguards agreement between the UAE and the United States. An agreement with New Zealand allows Rocket Lab to launch Electron rockets from the company’s spaceport on Mahia Peninsula. Brazil has signed an agreement that will allow U.S. companies to launch from the Alcantara Space Center.
The UAE state of Abu Dhabi has been a major investor in Virgin Galactic, which plans to fly suborbital tourism flights aboard SpaceShipTwo. In 2009, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Aabar Investments put in $280 million for a 31.7 percent share of Richard Branson’s space company. Aabar later invested an additional $100 million for a 38.7 percent share of Virgin Galactic.
The additional $100 million investment was intended to help finance the development of a small satellite booster that would be air launched from WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft when it wasn’t used for SpaceShipTwo suborbital flights. A new company, Virgin Orbit, split off from Virgin Galactic. The company dumped plans to use WhiteKnightTwo; instead, it uses a larger booster, LauncherOne, that is dropped from a modified Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl.
VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin successfully completed its fourth human spaceflight and 20th overall flight for New Shepard. The astronaut manifest included: Marty Allen, Sharon Hagle, Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, Gary Lai, and Dr. George Nield.
“Congratulations to our astronauts on today’s mission above the Kármán Line,” said Phil Joyce, Senior Vice President of New Shepard for Blue Origin. “We had the honor of safely flying this crew of six – each person with their own story of mentorship and passion for human spaceflight. We’re looking forward to many more flights this year, and we’re grateful to our astronaut customers for their trust in this amazing team.”
Blue Origin is planning more crewed and payload flights throughout 2022 and beyond. If you are interested in flying on New Shepard, visit Blue Origin’s website.
Customers can now purchase commemorative merchandise from today’s mission on the Blue Origin Shop.
The first three passenger flights of Blue Origin’s New Shepard have been long on symbolism. On the first one, Jeff Bezos invited Wally Funk, who in 1960 was one of 13 women who underwent the same medical checks as the Original Seven Mercury astronauts. NASA wasn’t accepting female pilots at the time, so Funk had to wait 51 years to reach space.
New Shepard’s second flight included starship Capt. James T. Kirk, or more precisely, the actor who played the “Star Trek” captain, William Shatner. The third flight had Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of America’s first astronaut to fly to space, who launched aboard a vehicle named after her father, Alan.
Video Caption: Lead flight director Nicholas Patrick sat down with webcast host and director of civil space exploration sales, Jacki Cortese, to provide a status update on the NS-20 mission and crew preparations.
Due to forecasted high winds during launch and recovery operations on Tuesday, March 29, and Wednesday, March 30, the New Shepard Mission Operations team has made the decision to move the launch of NS-20 to Thursday, March 31.
The team has completed Flight Readiness Review and confirmed the vehicle has met all mission requirements for flight. Astronauts are completing their training, and weather remains the only gating factor.
Live launch coverage of NS-20 begins on BlueOrigin.com at 7:20 am CDT / 12:20 UTC. Follow Blue Origin on Twitterto stay up to date on all mission details.
KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the sixth crew member joining New Shepard’s 20th mission will be Blue Origin’s Gary Lai, New Shepard Chief Architect. Gary joins the previously announced crew, which includes Marty Allen, husband and wife duo Sharon and Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, and Dr. George Nield.
WINTER PARK, Fla. (SpaceKids Global PR) — SpaceKids Global is proud to announce founder Sharon Hagle will take her first flight into space on March 23 as a member of the fourth crewed flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard. The 11-minute flight will take the six-person crew 62 miles above earth, traveling over three times the speed of sound to float weightless for several minutes. Joining Hagle on the flight will be her husband, Marc Hagle, making them the first married couple to fly to space on a commercial vehicle.
KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew flying on its upcoming NS-20 flight on March 23 will include Marty Allen, Pete Davidson, husband and wife duo Sharon and Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, and Dr. George Nield.
This mission is the fourth human flight for the New Shepard program and the 20th in its history.
Updated on March 5 at 8:34 a.m. PST with additional information about space companies located in the Los Angeles area and the benefits of industry clusters to employers and employees.
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
The state of New Mexico has proposed that Virgin Galactic establish a production facility at Spaceport America, which is where the company plans to begin flying tourists on suborbital space rides later this year. KRQE TV reports:
The New Mexico Economic Development Department says they have a proposal to bring Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing to the Spaceport. Right now, the manufacturing location is in the Mojave desert. Spaceport America has five permanent tenants that are conducting a variety of experiments; including one company that uses laser technology to help land on the moon.
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and former chairman Chamath Palihapitiya are facing a shareholder lawsuit claiming they profited from selling shares while the stock was artificially inflated and known flaws in the company’s space tourism vehicles were hidden. Yahoo News reports:
The investor lawsuit, filed February 21 by Virgin Galactic shareholder Thomas Spiteri, seeks damages from the space travel company’s directors and others in management.
Palihapitiya took advantage of his role as company chairman to sell 10 million shares for $315 million on “inside information” before he abruptly left his role last month, the derivative action alleges.
Virgin Galactic founder Branson sold 16 million shares for about $458 million while the stock was “artificially inflated,” the complaint said.
Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia, a blank check company that was already traded on the New York Stock Exchange, took Virgin Galactic through a merger in October 2019. He served as Virgin Galactic’s chairman before abruptly resigning on Feb. 18, four days before the company’s quarterly earnings call.
– Land Rover & Virgin Galactic Adventure of a Lifetime Sweepstakes features a Virgin Galactic Space Flight grand prize1 – Other prizes include Land Rover Experiences, Land Rover and Virgin Galactic merchandise, and more – Exclusive Sweepstakes is open to new and current Land Rover vehicle owners residing in the U.S.1, with entries accepted through June 20, 2022
MAHWAH, N.J., February 28, 2022 (Land Rover PR) – Land Rover, in partnership with Virgin Galactic today announced the launch of the Land Rover & Virgin Galactic Adventure of a Lifetime Sweepstakes. Land Rover vehicle owners residing in the U.S.1 will have the chance to win the ultimate grand prize of a seat on a Virgin Galactic space flight. The sweepstakes invites new and current Land Rover vehicle owners residing in the U.S.1 to engage with family and friends to increase their chances to win the grand prize – a seat on a Virgin Galactic space flight – or a number of other prizes, including Land Rover Experiences, Land Rover and Virgin Galactic merchandise, and more.
Current Fleet Enhancement Program On Schedule to be Completed in Q3 2022
Opened Ticket Sales to the General Public
TUSTIN, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR)– Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or the “Company”) today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2021 and provided a business update.
“We remain on track and on schedule to complete our enhancement program and launch commercial service later this year,” said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic. “We achieved many important milestones in 2021 that laid an essential foundation towards becoming a scaled, commercial operation. In recent weeks, we opened sales to the general public and launched our new global consumer brand. Demand for our one-of-a-kind experience remains strong, and we are currently building our operations to accommodate our growing customer base.”