Virgin Galactic Announces New Spaceship Manufacturing Facility in Mesa, Arizona

Credit: Virgin Galactic

MESA, Ariz., July 14, 2022 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), an aerospace and space travel company, today announced it has signed a long-term lease for a new final assembly manufacturing facility for its next-generation Delta class spaceships. Located in Mesa, Greater Phoenix area, adjacent to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, the facility will be capable of producing up to six spaceships per year and will bring hundreds of highly skilled aerospace engineering and manufacturing jobs to the area.

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Sierra Space and Spaceport America Sign Agreement on Landing Site for Dream Chaser® Spaceplane

Memorandum of Understanding Adds New Mexico Spaceport to Growing Portfolio of Global Landing Locations for Dream Chaser

Expands Working Relationship Following Sierra Space’s 2022 Corporate Sponsorship of Spaceport America Cup

Dream Chaser, set to launch in 2023, is the only commercial spacecraft capable of low-g earth return to compatible commercial runways worldwide, allowing immediate access to high value payloads. (Credit: Sierra Space)

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (Sierra Space PR)Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company at the forefront of creating and building the future of space transportation and infrastructure for low-Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization, and Spaceport America announced today the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The agreement adds the world-class New Mexico spaceport to Sierra Space’s portfolio of potential global landing sites for its Dream Chaser®, the world’s first and only winged commercial spaceplane.

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Former Top Federal Regulator to Fly on Unregulated Spaceship

Jeff Bezos pins Blue Origin astronaut wings on actor William Shatner. (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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New Mexico Seeks to Attract Virgin Galactic’s Manufacturing Facility to Spaceport America

A majority of Virgin Galactic’s future Astronauts gather with Sir Richard Branson (center) for a group photo at Virgin Galactic FAITH hangar in Mojave, CA September 25, 2013. Behind the group is the WhiteKnightTwo mated with SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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.

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Virgin Galactic Announces $81 Million Net Loss for Q4, $353 Million Loss for 2021

  • Commercial Service Remains on Track for Q4 2022
  • 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.”

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Virgin Galactic Opens Limited Opportunity to Purchase Future Spaceflight Reservation

Launches iconic new consumer brand designed to support commercial business

LAS CRUCES, N.M., February 15, 2022 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), an aerospace and space travel company, announced today that ticket sales will open to the general public starting on February 16, providing the opportunity to purchase one of the initial spaceflight reservations and secure membership in the unique community of Future Astronauts.  

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My Appearance on The Space Show Now Available for Listening


My appearance on The Space Show with David Livingston last night is now archived for your listening pleasure:

https://thespaceshow.com/show/08-feb-2022/broadcast-3823-doug-messier

ESG Hound called in to discuss the ongoing FAA environmental assessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica Starbase and the legal issues surrounding it. Most of the media have all but ignored the subject. It’s worth understanding in light of Elon Musk’s Starship update on Thursday evening at 9 p.m. EST.

We also talked about Virgin Galactic’s new president, Spaceport America’s multi-million dollar revenue problem, the proliferation of private space stations and modules, and what is shaping up to the busiest launch year in history.

I had a great time. Thank you to David for inviting me on. Thanks to ESG Hound for illuminating the issues at stake in the FAA’s attempt to approve Super Heavy/Starship launches from Boca Chica.

NM’s Latest Plan to Make Money From Spaceport America: Stop Treating SpaceShipTwo Passengers as Freight

SpaceShipTwo Unity on its second glide flight over Spaceport America. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

After waiting 16 years for Virgin Galactic to begin space tourism flights from Spaceport America, New Mexico legislators have hit upon a new idea to try to get some revenues out of the place once the company begins commercial service later this year. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports

A bipartisan bill introduced in the state Legislature seeks to close a loophole that excluded spaceflight passenger tickets from gross receipts taxes. The move aims to harvest revenue from ticket sales as Virgin Galactic prepares to begin regular commercial service later this year. 

H.B. 72 would amend a statute that excludes receipts “from launching, operating or recovering space vehicles or payloads in New Mexico” from gross receipts taxes, clarifying that sales “for transporting any person into or near space” would be taxable. 

A 2019 ruling by the state Taxation and Revenue Department on the question of taxing flights to space essentially treated passengers as freight, stating: “… it seems reasonable to consider passenger revenues as receipts received for the operation of a space vehicle.” 

“When those exemptions were drafted, it was not in anyone’s mind that people would be a payload,” state Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, told the Las Cruces Sun-News. Harper is a co-sponsor of the bill. 

Virgin has sold about 700 tickets to customers at three different prices: $200,000 (until 2013); $250,000 (2013-2021); and $450,000 (2021-present). The amount of the tax would depend upon where it was leveled in Dona Ana County (where Virgin Galactic has its headquarters) or Sierra County (home of Spaceport America).

CountyTicket PriceGross Receipts TaxTotal TaxTotal Cost
Dona Ana County$450,0008.3125$37,406.25$487,405.25
Sierra County$450,0006.9375$31,218.75481,218.75

The state government would receive most of the tax revenues, with the county receiving a smaller portion.

After more than a decade of delay, Virgin Galactic says it plans to complete flight test of its SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity spacecraft this summer. Commercial suborbital tourism flights are set to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

NM Economic Development Director to Focus on Developing State’s Emerging Aerospace Cluster

Alex Greenberg (Credit: New Mexico EDD)

EDD’s Alex Greenberg Will Focus on Developing Capabilities at Spaceport America, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and other facilities

SANTE FE, N.M. (NM EDD PR) – Alex Greenberg, a University of New Mexico graduate with a specialty in technology management, has been named Director of the Office of Science and Technology at the Economic Development Department (EDD), Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announced today.

Greenberg had been serving as EDD’s financial program specialist. Previously he held positions as a Clinical Project Manager in the healthcare industry, and with a biomedical startup company. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Business Administration from UNM’s Anderson School of Management.

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Spaceport America’s Former CFO Files Lawsuit Alleging Racketeering, Securities Fraud and Whistleblower Persecution by NM Officials

Spaceport America’s former CFO Zach De Gregorio has filed a complaint alleging racketeering, securities fraud, and whistleblower persecution by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other officials related to his termination from his job at the state-run facility. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports:

In a 250-page complaint filed in the state’s first judicial district in Santa Fe, Zach De Gregorio alleges he was effectively terminated after he filed a whistleblower complaint that triggered a 2020 investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement, ethical violations and abuse of power by the spaceport’s former director, Dan Hicks. 

Hicks, who did not comment publicly on the claims, was terminated in 2021 and succeeded by Scott McLaughlin….

De Gregorio, who now resides in Arizona, alleges a broad conspiracy involving Lujan Grisham, state auditor Brian Colón, state Attorney General Hector Balderas, spaceport personnel and the New Mexico Finance Authority “to commit procurement fraud, commit securities fraud, break multiple Federal laws, and commit violations of the NM Whistleblower Protection Act.”  

While the filing states several complaints about Colón’s office, the state auditor noted that only “the state of New Mexico” is named as a party to the case as initially filed.

A report commissioned by the state concluded that De Gregorio had aided Hicks in various illegal and unethical actions while both men worked at the spaceport.

De Gregorio has posted a PDF version of his lawsuit for download here.

NASA Armstrong Accomplished Numerous Milestones in 2021

Joby eVOL acoustic test (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — This year marks 75 years of flight research at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California and 2021 adds to those achievements. 2021 continued to be challenging while working in a mostly virtual environment, but progress was surely made.

NASA’s next supersonic X-plane, the X-59, is taking shape for upcoming flights; NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57, completed ground testing to prepare for flights; several Earth science missions were completed around the globe; and many other goals were met to prepare NASA Armstrong for a successful 2022 and beyond.

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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Virgin Galactic Alleging Securities Fraud

Michael Colglazier (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A class action lawsuit was filed in New York on Dec. 7 alleging securities fraud by Virgin Galactic, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in October 2019 after merging with Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH).

Named in the lawsuit are Virgin Galactic Holdings, CEO Michael Colglazier, former CEO George Whitesides, former current chief financial officer Doug Ahrens, and former chief financial officer Jon Compagna.

The lawsuit was filed amid years-long delays in the start of commercial human suborbital flights that have caused a sharp decline in the value of the stock. Virgin Galactic began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at an opening price of $12.34 on Oct. 28, 2019. The stock is now trading at $14.46 having previously soared to a high of $62.80.

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FAA Decides Bezos, Branson and Shatner Are Astronauts After All

  • Everyone who exceeds 50 miles by Dec. 31 will receive commercial astronaut wing even if they were just passengers
  • Nobody after that will even if they pilot a ship
  • Agency reverses earlier decision to award wings only to those essential to flight operations/success
  • FAA says this is what was intended all along

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) – With the advent of the commercial space tourism era, starting in 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will now recognize individuals who reach space on its website instead of issuing Commercial Space Astronaut Wings. Any individual who is on an FAA-licensed or permitted launch and reaches 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth will be listed on the site. 

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Omaze and Virgin Galactic Announce Winner of Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip to Space

Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson’s Omaze sweepstakes raised an anticipated $1.7M in grants to support Space for Humanity’s mission to democratize space travel

LOS ANGELES, C.A., November 24, 2021 (Omaze PR) — Today, Omaze, the charity fundraising platform that offers the chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences and prizes, and Virgin Galactic, revealed that Keisha S. from Antigua and Barbuda is the exclusive winner of two seats on a Virgin Galactic commercial space flight. Born and raised in Antigua, Keisha is a health and energy coach who is passionate about empowering women to live their best lives. She has always had a lifelong dream of going to space, and hopes to bring her daughter, an astrophysics student, as her guest on this incredible journey.

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Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo Returns to Mojave for Overhaul

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve mothership returned to the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Saturday for the start of 8-10 months of upgrades and repairs. The dual fuselage airplane flew from its operating base at Spaceport America in New Mexico to the spaceport where it was built and first flew 13 years ago on Dec. 21, 2008.

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