Welcome to Virgin Galactic’s Quarterly Update – a recap of the steady progress the Virgin Galactic team is making toward Opening Space to Change the World for Good. In this newsletter, we bring you company highlights relevant to the suborbital research, spaceflight participant, and policy community.
In this quarter’s update, we’re recapping a tremendous 2019. We invite you to learn more about our:
- Mission Updates – Italian Air Force research flight signed; ASE pins for Future Astronauts.
- Milestones Toward Launch – Progress on our next spaceship build; Future Astronaut spacesuits introduced; Transitioning to Spaceport America.
- Business Updates – Virgin Galactic going public; Boeing’s $20 million investment.
Best regards – and Happy 2020!
The Virgin Galactic Team
Virgin Galactic’s vision is to “Open Space to Change the World for Good” – democratizing space in a way to provide low-cost, high-quality access to suborbital space for private individuals, researchers, scientists, and government agencies across the globe.
We’re making steady strides toward supporting and achieving that mission. Some recent highlights include:
- Italian Air Force research flight: Italian researchers will tend to experiments aboard a SpaceShipTwo flight – a historic first for governmental research aboard a commercial space vehicle.
- ASE pins for Future Astronauts: Our Future Astronauts and crew will be awarded pins by the Association of Space Explorers after their spaceflights, acknowledging their experience.
Italian Human-Tended Research Flight
In October, Virgin Galactic and the Italian Air Force announced a dedicated research flight during which Italian researchers will actively conduct experiments while they are in space. This marks the first time a government department has funded a human-tended research flight on a commercial space vehicle.
Human-tended research onboard SpaceShipTwo allows a dynamic approach to space-based science with researchers able to engage actively with their experiments, responding to developments in real time, optimizing the effectiveness of the research.
The mission is set to take place as early as 2020 and will fly three Italian payload specialists and a rack of research payloads. The Italian Air Force payload specialists and Virgin Galactic’s payload team are working with the Italian National Research Centre (CNR) on the payloads’ design.
Read more about the agreement and the mission here.
ASE Space Pins for Future Astronauts
To recognize their achievement following their flights to space, the Association of Space Explorers announced this year that our Future Astronauts and crew will be awarded space pins.
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE), an international non-profit organization of over 400 flown astronauts and cosmonauts from 38 nations, said that it will recognize spaceflight participants who complete who complete suborbital trips to space with private companies. This means that crew and customers who travel more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface with Virgin Galactic or other private companies, will receive a pin from ASE.
The first pin was presented to Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, at the International Astronautical Conference. Beth became the 571st person to fly to space when she completed a live evaluation of SpaceShipTwo’s cabin dynamics during our second spaceflight in February.
Read more about Beth’s pinning and ASE’s announcement, here.
Throughout the year, the Virgin Galactic team, along with colleagues at our sister organization, The Spaceship Company, has been hard at work actively preparing for the start – and future – of our commercial operations.
We have successfully met several key milestones on the path toward routine spaceflight.
- Building out our spaceline fleet: the team is making significant strides in the assembly of our next spaceship – which will enter service alongside VSS Unity.
- Preparing our Future Astronaut customers: We designed and introduced our uniquely ergonomic spacesuits – the world’s first spacewear system for private astronauts – and have kicked-off our spaceflight training and accommodation regime through our first Astronaut Readiness Program.
- Transitioning to Spaceport America: We continue the move of our personnel and flight hardware to our commercial operations site at Spaceport America in New Mexico – where we revealed our interior.
Learn more about some of this year’s important achievements, below.
- In late November, we installed the Main Oxidizer Tank – which holds the oxidizer that allows our hybrid rocket motor to fire – to our next spaceship. Read more, here.
- In September, we mated the fuselage and cabin of our next SpaceShip to its wing assembly, as well as the tail booms – a major milestone in the assembly of the vehicle’s primary structures. Read more, here.
- The team kicked-off its Astronaut Readiness Program, developed to provide our first cohort of Future Astronauts an optimal preparation regime for their transformative spaceflight experience. Read more about the program here.
- We introduced our spacesuits, developed in collaboration with Under Armour, in October. The suits – uniquely fitted for each of our customers – are designed to maximize comfort and utility while ensuring top levels of safety for our Future Astronauts. Read more, here.
- In August, we opened the doors to our “Gateway to Space” at Spaceport America in New Mexico – the site of our commercial operations. The furnished interior will host our Future Astronauts, their guests, and our mission operations teams. Read more, here.
- As a pioneer of commercial human space flight with wide-ranging, advanced aerospace manufacturing and development capabilities, Virgin Galactic is constantly expanding its business footprint and opportunities.
- In 2019, Virgin Galactic achieved several major business-related successes – including becoming the first-ever publicly traded commercial spaceflight company in history, and announcing a $20 million investment from Boeing.
With these achievements, the company is heading into the new year with the momentum and solid foundation needed to complete our flight test program, commence regular commercial passenger flights, and start to look at future technologies and markets as we build the Spaceline for Earth.
- On October 28, after merging with Social Capital Hedosophia – a public investment vehicle – Virgin Galactic began trading on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol SPCE). Read more about this historic business milestone here.
- Boeing announced an investment of $20 million into Virgin Galactic in October. Together, the companies will work to broaden space access and transform global travel technologies. Read more about the investment and partnership, here.