Now that 2014 is finally here, Virgin Galactic‘s first commercial flight with its WhiteKnightTwo / SpaceShipTwo combo edges ever so closer to reality with every day that goes past. A few days ago, they launched SpaceShipTwo 71,000ft up in the sky and tested several critical features in the process, as Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay was at the helm. One of the features being tested were the newly designed thrusters (RCS) which are used by the pilots to maneuver the vehicle in space. The other feature on trial was the tail section’s new coating which reflects heat produced by that massive rocket engine sitting just behind the passenger’s cabin as it were. SS2’s unique feather re-entry system was also tested during today’s flight.
As the company was gathering a ton of transonic and supersonic data, Sir Richard Branson said the following of the successful flight (the third supersonic, rocket-powered test flight of Virgin Galactic): “I couldn’t be happier to start the New Year with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full space flights. 2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space. Today, we had our own Chief Pilot flying another flawless supersonic flight and proving the various systems required to take us safely to space, as well as providing the very best experience while we’re up there.”
For the full article, head over to the Virgin Galactic website but be sure to check out the video below. What an AMAZING way to get 2014 going!
About a month ago, we covered Mars One, the organisation founded by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp that is planning to have people settle on Mars. Interestingly, their main source of income for this enterprise will be a reality-TV program about those colonists… fast forward to this week, and here we have it: Virgin Galactic is partnering up with NBC to create a television series called “Space Race”, which will follow contestants as they compete to win the grand price. And not just any price… a ticket to fly aboard Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShapeTwo and become an astronaut, taking the saying “the trip of a lifetime” very literally!
A date for the series to air is unknown as of yet, since Branson‘s team is still testing the space ship, but with over 600 people signed up already at $200k-$250k each, and now this, you can tell the Virgin PR machine is turning it up a notch. Together with TV producer Mark Burnett who’s responsible for shows as “Survivor” and “The Voice”, they are bound to deliver something unique to our screens very soon.
“‘Space Race’ allows us to extend this opportunity of a lifetime to as many people as possible right at the start of our commercial service — through direct experience and television viewing,” Branson said. Check out the full article here at NBC.
For anyone in the TV industry who’s looking for a similar idea, why not check out Scrapheap Challenge … that would truly be amazing. Until then, let’s all sign up for Branson’s next masterstroke!
Sir Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic is pushing things into high gear, with the recent appointment of two heavy hitters. At the start of July it announced the appointment of Doug Shane as Executive Vice President and General Manager of The Spaceship Company (TSC) which as you might remember from reading here, began as a joint venture between Virgin and Scaled Composites (Scaled) to build a fleet of spaceships. Shane will be overseeing the manufacturing company and it looks like they could not have picked a better person. His 31 year career at Scaled saw him being their test pilot, Director of Flight Operations and VP of Business Development, before serving as President for the past five years after the retirement of company founder Burt Rutan.
Then 2 weeks later, it made another big appointment by making Steven J. Isakowitz President of Virgin Galactic, where he already served as Executive Vice President and CTO since joining in 2011. This is a man who worked for NASA, was the CFO of the U.S. Department of Energy through two presidential administrations, served as Branch Chief of Science and Space Programs at the White House and was an aerospace engineer and project manager for Lockheed Martin. Bags of experience would be an understatement!
Virgin Galactic seems to be on track to become the world’s first commercial spaceline alright, making the right moves to establish itself as the benchmark organisation as it expands in preparation for commercial operations. 2014 is going to be one exciting year!
There would be few who could claim to have never heard of the charismatic billionaire founder and chairman of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson. A dropout at 16, he turned his hand to publishing with the magazine aptly named Student. As if that wasn’t enough, he turned to successfully selling records via mail order, then opening a record store when the postal strike shut down their distribution. Not too long after that he found himself opening a recording studio in a country mansion, and his London shop turned into a national chain through rapid expansion, and so on.
When the first bank asked him what he was going to do when he asked them for that first big £30k loan, they must have thought him a madman for dreaming of an airline, music business, etc. When Branson and his band of cohorts ended up with the name Virgin, as it would be cool to have at least one still in the room if only by name, no one could have imagined (apart from Branson himself of course) what an economic empire this would become years later.
One could argue that Branson was lucky on numerous occassions – from finding Mike Oldfield, who basically bankrolled Virgin Records for quite some time, to surviving his balloon adventure gone pear-shaped. But being that lucky takes hard work! Obviously a cunning communicator and extraordinarily gifted people manager, he also had the guts to put his companies on the line for something or someone he believed in. Rarely do great rewards come without great risks and he seems to have known that since his childhood.
Turn the clock forward a few decades, and while Necker Island might be the envy of men and women everywhere, it is Virgin Group‘s recent acquisition of The Spaceship Company and what that is leading into that’s the really exciting news these days. In partnership with Scaled Composites, the company is building a fleet of ships that will catapult Virgin Galactic into the history books as the first operational spaceline, possibly already at the end of 2013. Life just doesn’t get much cooler than that…