A TRUE VISIONARY MAN
I remember, when I was young there was a place which attracted me magically, the Virgin Mega Store. In that paradise for all music enthusiasts you could find nearly everything. When you didn’t find an album or single, the staff used the latest technologies to organize it for you. This place was my second home. It was founded by one of the most visionary men of our century Sir Richard Branson. Moreover, he is also the founder of Virgin Galactic.
SIR RICHARD BRANSON ABOUT VIRGIN GALACTIC
“From the Renaissance to modern space science, Italy has always been a natural home to great innovators and breakthrough ideas which have shaped the human experience. I believe Italy’s vision which has led to this collaboration with our Virgin space companies will provide a real impetus as we strive to open space for the benefit of life on Earth. This partnership could see Virgin Galactic launch the first person in history into space from Italian soil – and in fact from any European territory. Together, we will help to expand opportunities for science, industry and the millions of people who dream of experiencing space for themselves.”
VIRGIN GALACTIC SPACEFLIGHTS COME TO ITALY
Nicola Zaccheo, Sitael CEO, Vincenzo Giorgio, Altec CEO, and George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO, signed at Sitael headquarters a framework agreement that intends to bring Virgin Galactic spaceflights to Italy.
The agreement comes after two years of business discussions, government regulatory analysis, studies on potential operations and market assessment. Finally, the signature was witnessed by the founder of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson. Furthermore, the founder of Angel Group Mr. Vito Pertosa, the President of the Italian Space Agency Mr. Roberto Battiston, the Italian Minister Ms. Barbara Lezzi, the President of Apulia Region Mr. Michele Emiliano, the President of the Aeroporti di Puglia Mr. Tiziano Onesti and the Commercial Officer of the U.S. Embassy in Rome Todd Avery were present.
A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
In September 2016 Altec – a public-private company owned by the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia
Space – signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Virgin Galactic. Later, in August 2017, the U.S. Department of State approved a Technical Assistance Agreement for the development of a plan for ultimate construction of an Italian spaceport. Hence, that area that will provide the infrastructure for future Virgin Galactic suborbital flights.
VIRGIN GALACTIC’S HQ REMAINS IN NEW MEXICO
However, Virgin Galactic’s operational headquarters remains at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the world’s first purpose built commercial spaceport. Earlier this year, following in-depth analysis of potential locations, the Italian aviation authority ENAC designated the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport as the future home for horizontally-launched spaceflights in Italy.
THE SPACEPORT IN ITALY
Besides, Sitael, the largest privately-owned space company in Italy with headquarters in Puglia region, is partnering with Altec and Virgin Galactic in order to define the framework that will lead the spaceflight operations from Grottaglie Spaceport.
The agreement signed in July this year envisions a dedicated space vehicle system, built by Virgin Galactic’s sister enterprise The Spaceship Company. It’s being positioned at the future Grottaglie Spaceport, which will
integrate significant technological and industrial contribution from Sitael and the rest of Italian Aerospace industry, pending regulatory approvals.
THE SPACE VEHICLE
The space vehicle would be utilized by customers like the Italian Space Agency as a science platform for high-frequency space research, as well as private individuals to experience space. So, this dual nature will drive innovation spur industrial development, STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as promote further investments and economic growth in Puglia and Italy as a whole.
Representatives of Italian Government and Puglia Region together with leadership of the U.S. Embassy in Rome were present to show their support for the plan. They highlighted the strategic relevance of the project for both US and Italy.
ABOUT VIRGIN GALACTIC – THE WAY TO SPACE
Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline. It was founded by Sir Richard Branson. Besides, the owners are the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS and Virgin Galactic. Furthermore, the latter sister companies-Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company open access to space to change the world for good.
Thus, to revolutionize human spaceflight, Virgin Galactic tests the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, a reusable space launch system. The number of customers who paid to reserve places to fly on SpaceShipTwo is already greater than the total number of humans who have ever been to space throughout history.
SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, are manufactured and tested in Mojave, California by Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing wing, The Spaceship Company. Commercial operations will be based in New Mexico at Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Galactic’s talented and growing team, visit virgingalactic.com.
ABOUT THE SPACESHIP COMPANY
The Spaceship Company is Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing sister organization. Headquartered in Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, it’s building and testing a fleet of WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and SpaceShipTwo reusable spaceships that, together, form Virgin Galactic’s human spaceflight system.
Like many Virgin companies across the world, its team of over 500 talented and dedicated engineers, technicians and professionals are drawn together by a willingness to disrupt and challenge the status quo and deliver innovative aerospace solutions to our customers’ needs.
The Spaceship Company has a straightforward name: as you would expect, we build spaceships. But we also do much more. The Spaceship Company’s extensive capabilities encompass preliminary vehicle design and analysis, manufacturing, ground testing, flight testing and post-delivery support.
The Spaceship Company team is uniquely positioned to offer end-to-end aerospace development with thousands of years of cumulative experience in design, manufacturing, and testing.
VIRGIN GALACTIC AT A GLANCE
Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline.
Virgin Galactic is transforming access to space. Thus, the company will provide affordable and safe launch opportunities for private individuals and research payloads via their human space flight system.
Thanks to their innovative design, the vehicles are built to dramatically increase the frequency and safety of space flight. Virgin Galactic’s human spaceflight business aims to fly more people to space in its first few years of service than have been there through all of history. Besides, the sister company, Virgin Orbit, will provide launch opportunities for new orbital technology via its small satellite launch service.
Its launch vehicle will open up the space frontier to innovators of all sorts, from start-ups and schools to established space companies and national space agencies. So, by achieving these objectives, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit will be playing their part in opening space to change the world for good.
Passengers aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – the first commercial human spaceflight vehicle – will experience the unique thrills of spaceflight, enjoying the opportunity to leave their seats to float in zero gravity for several minutes. So, from an official space altitude, Virgin Galactic astronauts will experience astounding views of Earth from the black sky of space. Additionally, three days of preparation at New Mexico’s Spaceport America prior to the flight will ensure a safe, enjoyable and unforgettable journey. Finally, the whole experience will be captured on film for each astronaut as a unique personal record of history in the making.
SpaceShipTwo can also be configured to carry research payloads by replacing astronauts’ seats with mounting racks that can accommodate the leading payload container systems. Each flight can carry as much as 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) of payload into space in addition to an onboard Payload Engineer. This offers an unparalleled opportunity to conduct high-quality, affordable experiments.
Many researchers are looking at SpaceShipTwo as an invaluable stepping stone on their way to orbital systems, while others are conducting unique research custom-designed for suborbital flight. NASA is already a customer, having chartered a flight on SpaceShipTwo through its Flight Opportunities Program.
Virgin Galactic’s sister company Virgin Orbit will provide launch services for small satellites to Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with the LauncherOne vehicle. Traditionally, small satellites have been launched as secondary payloads, which constrains the satellite provider’s choice of launch characteristics. Besides, LauncherOne will allow small satellite providers with greater flexibility and responsiveness in selecting launch dates, locations and orbits that are optimized for their mission goals.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Aabar Investments PJS.
The Ansari XPRIZE called for private sector innovations in the field of manned space exploration. Specifically, participants had to design, build and fly a privately funded vehicle that could deliver the weight of three people (including one actual person) to space. Moreover, the vehicle had to be at least 80 percent reusable and fly twice within a two-week period.
Mojave Aerospace Ventures, a Paul G. Allen company, and Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites pursued the prize with Rutan-designed SpaceShipOne, an air-launched all-composite rocket ship. Furthermore, the Virgin Group sponsored both of SpaceShipOne’s XPRIZE winning flights, flown in September and October 2004 by pilots Mike Melville and Brian Binnie respectively.
SpaceShipOne is now permanently displayed in the Milestones of Flight Gallery at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
With this success, the Virgin Group licensed Mojave Aerospace Ventures’ technology and invested in the development of a second-generation vehicle for commercial ventures. Virgin Galactic was born.
Seeing private space travel as a reality, early adopters began making reservations for flights, providing vital and tangible proof of a readily available market at a commercially viable price. To date, more than 600 people from 60 nations around the world have secured reservations to fly on SpaceShipTwo.
Virgin Galactic has developed two types of vehicles for suborbital operations, which were originally designed by Scaled Composites:
SpaceShipTwo (SS2) – SS2 is a reusable spaceplane designed to carry two pilots and up to six passengers into suborbital space. It uses much of the same technology, construction techniques, and basic design of SpaceShipOne, but is much bigger. For example the cabin volume of SpaceShipTwo is almost six times that of SpaceShipOne. The first vehicle was unveiled in December 2009, and test flights began in March 2010. The second vehicle was unveiled in February 2016; its first flight (captive with its carrier aircraft) was in September 2016 and its first free flight (operating as a crewed glider) was on 3rd December 2016.
WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) – WK2 is the carrier aircraft specifically designed for air launch of SS2. It is the largest 100-percent carbon composite carrier craft ever built and made its first flight in December 2008.
The WhiteKnightTwo test flight program is complete. The first SpaceShipTwo vehicle was at an advanced stage of testing when it was lost during its fourth powered test flight in October 2014. Following its February 2016 unveil, the second SpaceShipTwo vehicle completed its ground test program and its flight test program is in progress. Virgin Galactic will officially launch operations from Spaceport America in New Mexico with paying passengers once it believes it is safe to do so and has received all regulatory approvals.
Virgin Galactic’s Mojave-based The Spaceship Company (TSC) now has the third and fourth spaceships in production as part of the fleet of vehicles on order for Virgin Galactic.
Spaceport America (SA) – the state of New Mexico and the counties of Sierra and Doña Ana funded the world’s first purpose-built spaceport complete with a 12,000-foot runway. Located some 47 miles north of Las Cruces, N.M., Spaceport America will serve as Virgin Galactic’s base of operations for human spaceflight. The “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal and hangar facility was designed by Foster + Partners, URS Corporation, and New Mexico firm SMPC Architects, and it was dedicated in October 2011.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.
Mike Moses, President of Virgin Galactic.
Doug Shane, Chairman of The Spaceship Company.
Enrico Palermo, President of The Spaceship Company.
Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director for Virgin Galactic.
Jonathan Firth, Executive Vice President, Spaceport & Program Development for Virgin Galactic.
Todd Ericson, Vice President of Safety and Test for Virgin Galactic.
Julia Hunter, Vice President, Operations for Virgin Galactic.
Pictures: © Virgin Galactic