Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

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Virgin Galactic Announces First Stage Design Scope for Supersonic Jet, Signs Non-binding MOU with Rolls Royce

Virgin Galactic Mach 3 jet. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. 3 August 2020 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, which includes its manufacturer of advanced air and space vehicles, The Spaceship Company (“TSC”), announced today the first stage design scope for the build of its high speed aircraft design, and the signing of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Rolls-Royce to collaborate in designing and developing engine propulsion technology for high speed commercial aircraft.

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Branson Looks to Unprofitable Virgin Galactic to Help Save Reeling Empire

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For nearly 16 years, Richard Branson’s obsession with space travel has been massive money pit for the billionaire’s Virgin Group. Branson’s conglomerate has poured more than $1 billion into Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company without launching a single tourist or satellite into space while generating minuscule revenues and not a single penny of profit.

And yet, by the strange workings of modern finances, this money losing effort will be helping to prop up the Virgin Group, which has been laid low financially by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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Virgin Galactic, NASA Sign Agreement to Work on High-Mach Technologies

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity arrives at Spaceport America aboard WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif., (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”) and its wholly owned subsidiary, The Spaceship Company (“TSC”), announced today the signing of a Space Act Agreement with NASA to facilitate the development of high speed technologies.

The Space Act Agreement (“SAA”), is set to enable and foster collaboration between NASA, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company in order to advance the United States’ efforts to produce technically feasible, high Mach vehicles for potential civil applications.

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Virgin Galactic Signs Space Act Agreement with NASA in COVID-19 Fight

An employee works on the Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet, a device that was successfully tested by doctors at Antelope Valley Hospital in California. The Spaceship Company began producing 500 this week and a request was submitted April 22 to the FDA for an emergency use authorization. NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California partnered with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company (TSC), Antelope Valley College and members of the Antelope Valley Task Force to solve possible shortages of critical medical equipment in the local community. (Credits: NASA)

by George Whitesides
Virgin Galactic CEO

During the current global crisis, we believe that the space industry has a responsibility to share expertise, knowledge, resources, and ingenuity to aid in the fight against COVID-19. That’s why, today, we are proud to share that Virgin Galactic is meeting this responsibility head-on through a Space Act Agreement with NASA.

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NASA Contributes Expertise, Ingenuity to COVID-19 Fight

An employee works on the Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet, a device that was successfully tested by doctors at Antelope Valley Hospital in California. The Spaceship Company began producing 500 this week and a request was submitted April 22 to the FDA for an emergency use authorization. NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California partnered with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company (TSC), Antelope Valley College and members of the Antelope Valley Task Force to solve possible shortages of critical medical equipment in the local community. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has joined the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19) with efforts underway across the country to augment the national response, a few of which were highlighted in a media briefing today.

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NASA Joins California Team to Develop COVID-19 Solutions

NASA engineer Mike Buttigieg works on an oxygen hood system prototype worn by Dr. Daniel Khodabakhsh from the Antelope Valley Hospital in California. The hood is designed to help coronavirus patients who don’t yet need a ventilator, but who are experiencing breathing troubles. The hood forces oxygen into patients with mild coronavirus symptoms, minimizing the likelihood that the patient will need to use a ventilator. (Credits: NASA/Carla Thomas)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has joined forces with a task force in Antelope Valley, in northern Los Angeles County, California, to build medical devices to help patients with coronavirus (COVID-19).

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center partnered with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company (TSC), and Antelope Valley College to come up with innovative ideas to solve possible shortages of critical medical equipment.

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Virgin Galactic Builds Prototype Patient Oxygen Hood to Address COVID-19 Pandemic

Supporting our Communities: Our work with the Antelope Valley COVID-19 Task Force

George Whitesides
CEO Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company

As we all continue to feel the direct impact of COVID-19 in our day-to-day lives, I’ve been inspired by the teamwork shown in the Antelope Valley (AV) of California to respond to the challenge of COVID-19. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we share knowledge, skills and collaborate.

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Virgin Galactic Supports its Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

George Whitesides

Message from George Whitesides
Virgin Galactic CEO

All over the globe, we are seeing and feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is one of the most significant crises we have seen in our lifetimes.  Whether it is the brave doctors and nurses working around the clock to help patients, children helping their elderly parents stay safe and fed, or parents and teachers keeping their kids educated while schools are physically closed – we are all in this together and we have a responsibility to help care for one another.

With the impact of COVID-19 mounting every day, our team has worked hard to help tackle this crisis, with an initial focus on the communities we work in.  I am proud of the commitment and initiative of our people at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, and Virgin Group in helping to support relief efforts.  Led by our in-house flight doctors, our COVID-19 team has been working closely with local hospitals, commercial suppliers, and government authorities to provide help where it is needed most.

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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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WhiteKnightTwo Departs Mojave for New Mexico

A Virgin Galactic spokeswoman tells me that SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity 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.

Virgin Galactic Announces Merger, Plan to Go Public

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

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.

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For Sale: The World’s Largest Airplane*

Stratolaunch takes off. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

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.

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Richard Branson Wants to Fly on SpaceShipTwo on Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

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

Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson says he wants to fly to space aboard SpaceShipTwo as America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, Agence France Presse (AFP) reports.

“My wish is to go up on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, that’s what we’re working on,” the head of the Virgin group said on the sidelines of an event to honor Virgin Galactic at the Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Whether a SpaceShipTwo flight on the anniversary of the moon landing will be seen as a fitting tribute to America’s greatest achievement in space or merely a giant PR distraction is uncertain.

Whether they will be able to make that date is equally unclear. SpaceShipTwo Unity is still undergoing flight tests at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (Branson told AFP the next flight is set for Feb. 20, weather permitting.) And practically all of his previous predictions for the start of commercial flights have been proven wrong over the past 14.5 years.

Branson plans to be on Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight, which will take place from Spaceport America in New Mexico. His son, Sam, and other passengers are set to be aboard the flights. Perhaps he will take Apollo 11 moon walker Buzz Aldrin, who just turned 89, along with him.

Branson told AFP that Virgin Galactic costs $35 million per month or $420 million per year to operate. He previously estimated he has spent $1 billion to $1.3 billion on the SpaceShipTwo program since it was announced in 2004.

Virgin recently laid off about 40 employees from Virgin Galactic and its sister company, The Spaceship Company.











Virgin Galactic, TSC Donate SpaceShipTwo Rocket Motor to Smithsonian

SpaceShipTwo motor donated to the National Air & Space Museum. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON, 7 Feb 2019 (Virgin Galactic PR) — Richard Branson joined Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) staff and guests today at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, to announce that the hybrid rocket motor which powered SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, to space for the first time on December 13th last year, has been donated to the museum. The rocket motor was unveiled during the ceremony and will be exhibited in the museum’s planned, new commercial space flight gallery to be called ‘Future of Spaceflight.’

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