Daily Management Review

Space Race Back for Branson's Virgin Galactic


Space Race Back for Branson's Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson wants to again join the race to send passengers and satellites into space. The billionaire entrepreneur said that his Virgin Galactic venture is eager to rejoin the race among rival billionaire entrepreneurs despite the deadly accident 16 months ago.
“To have three or four people who are fairly entrepreneurial competing with each other means we’ll be able to open up space at a fraction of the price that governments have been able to do so in the past,” Branson said as he toured Virgin Galactic’s 150,000-square-foot LauncherOne rocket design and manufacturing plant in Long Beach, California.
Designed to take thrill-seekers, researchers and commercial customers on five-minute hops into suborbital space, reaching altitudes of about 62 miles (100 km) Virgin Galactic plans to unveil its new SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot winged space plane.
The new passenger vehicle and LauncherOne rockets designed to lift small satellites starting as early as next year is being built by Virgin Galactic as its own space launchers.
SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen are the rivals of Branson in the privately funded space race.
The first spaceship disaster that destroyed the spaceship on October 31 during a test flight in Mojave and which was designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corp's Scaled Composites had grounded Branson’s venture. Virgin Galactic’s plans to start commercial operations as early as this year were dashed by the accident that killed one pilot.
The co-pilot prematurely released locks that pin the ship’s rotating tail section into place, the National Transportation Safety Board which investigated the accident had concluded. In order to keep the tail from rotating on its own, the new spaceship includes a pin that prevents the pilots from unlocking the tail section too early before aerodynamic forces have built up.
 At the time the accident had occurred, the Spaceship Company, or TSC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Virgin Galactic, already had taken over manufacturing of the second spaceship in a planned fleet of five.
"Ultimately, we want to be able to produce our own point-to-point aircraft. The best way to do that is to be involved with every aspect of the experimentation and the build," Branson said.
The Chief Executive of the company, George Whitesides, said that more than $500 million have been invested in Virgin Galactic by Branson’s London-based Virgin Group and Aabar Investments, run by the Abu Dhabi government together.
Whitesides said that nearly 700 people had signed up or the Virgin Galactic rides on SpaceShipTwo, tickets for which are priced at $250,000.

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