Status Report

Virgin Galactic to Join NASA Submissions for Orbital Spaceflights

By SpaceRef Editor
December 17, 2010
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VG has long stated its ambition to use the success and experience gained through its groundbreaking SpaceShipTwo sub-orbital space program to develop new markets and products with the aim of transforming the safety, cost and environmental impact of access to space.

With this in mind, it has watched the growth of the commercial manned orbital field closely. The second phase of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDEV2), designed to stimulate development of privately-operated crew vehicles to low Earth orbit, presents an opportunity for VG to start to map a path towards a commercial orbital service for fare-paying passengers by encouraging reusable technologies and designs which can offer important advantages to safety, cost and passenger experience.

Both SNC and OSC are pursuing vehicle designs under CCDEV2 featuring reusable lifting-wing bodies and runway landings, which VG believes could revolutionize orbital space flight in much the same way that SpaceShipTwo has revolutionized sub-orbital space flight.

As a contributor to SNC’s and OSC’s submissions to NASA, VG is proposing to market seats on these vehicles to the public and to its existing customer base, which now numbers more than 400 people who have made deposits of over $54 million. VG will also investigate providing its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, to SNC and OSC during their test flight programs.

Commenting on the announcement, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic said:

“Virgin Galactic has shown in the past few years how private sector investment and innovation can lead to a rapid transformation of stagnant technologies. We are now very close to making the dream of sub-orbital space a reality for thousands of people at a cost and level of safety unimaginable even in the recent past. We know that many of those same people, including myself, would also love to take an orbital space trip in the future, so we are putting our weight behind new technologies that could deliver that safely whilst driving down the enormous current costs of manned orbital flight by millions of dollars. Today’s announcement is an important step along the way to achieving our ultimate and long term goal of leading an industry which opens up the huge potential of space to everyone, whether it be for the experience itself, for science research, for fast and efficient transportation around the globe or for delivering payloads to space safely, cleanly and cheaply. We very much look forward to working with SNC, OSC and other partners in the future to bring this ambition to fruition.”

Mark N. Sirangelo, Corporate Vice President and head of Sierra Nevada Space Systems added, “We are thrilled to have Virgin Galactic as part of our effort to make commercial orbital transportation a reality. The knowledge gained by Virgin in the development and promotion of the history making SpaceShipTwo suborbital system will add considerably to our program. We are proud to be the prime rocket motor provider to SpaceShipTwo and to have Virgin Galactic joining a growing group of world-class space companies who form our Dream Chaser team. Their participation will truly enhance our efforts.”

Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital Science’s Senior Vice President and former NASA astronaut stated: Virgin Galactic is clearly breaking new ground in the commercial space market, and we are now very excited to have them on our team. This partnership for marketing and supporting our innovative and affordable design carries a great deal of promise for achieving the kind of growth in commercial spaceflight that will help to make this a sustainable market in the future.”

About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. The new spaceship (VSS Enterprise) and Mothership (VMS Eve) are both being developed for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the $10m Ansari X prize as the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles share much of the same basic design but are being built to carry six customers on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space. The VSS Enterprise test flight program will continue through 2011, prior to commercial operations which will be based at Virgin Galactic’s future headquarters at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

About Sierra Nevada Corporation

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is known for its rapid, innovative, and agile technology solutions in electronics, aerospace, avionics, space, aircraft and communications systems for both the private and public sectors. Founded in 1963, SNC’s seven unique business areas employ approximately 2,000 people in 20 states. The SNC Space Systems Group has 20 years of space flight experience having participated successfully in over 300 space missions with 4,000 satellites, systems, subsystems and components on orbit. SNC is the owner and prime contractor for the Dream Chaser orbital vehicle program with its first vehicle now undergoing testing and leads a team of experienced space companies working to begin commercial operations by 2014.

About Orbital Sciences Corporation Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories.

Virgin Galactic, LLC:
Jackie McQuillan, Head of Press
Telephone: +44-(0)-7905-309-096

Sierra Nevada Corporation:
Mark N. Sirangelo, Corporate Vice President
Telephone: 1-720-407-3192

Orbital Sciences Corporation
Baron Beneski – VP, Corporate Communications
Telephone: 1-703-406-5528

SpaceRef staff editor.