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NOAA and Galactic Collaboration

30.09.08

NOAA and Galactic Collaboration

NOAA and Virgin Galactic to explore collaboration for study of climate change

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Virgin Galactic (VG) announced today that they will explore the use of VG’s vehicles for climate science and other research relevant to NOAA’s mission. NOAA and Virgin Galactic intend to explore a possible collaboration that ultimately would fly NOAA science instruments onboard the VG carrier vehicle and SpaceShipTwo. The first of these instruments would provide data on atmospheric composition – particularly CO2 and other greenhouse gases – that will increase understanding of important global climate science. Such data will also provide important in situ measurements which will help provide calibration of satellite-based atmospheric measurements.

Both NOAA and VG are interested in increasing the understanding of the basic data and processes underlying climate change. A central component of NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment, and a major focus of the Virgin Group is playing its part in answering the challenge of climate change throughout its global businesses. Work conducted under this agreement during the vehicles’ test flight program would be done on a no-exchange of funds basis and in compliance with all appropriate FAA regulations. “We need data and observations to understand how our climate changes,” said Retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “This affords us a new and unique opportunity to gather samples and measurements at much higher altitudes that we can usually achieve.” “To my mind there is no greater or more immediate challenge than that posed by climate change,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. “It’s therefore more than fitting that the very first science to be conducted on board our new vehicles may be specifically directed at increasing our understanding and knowledge of the atmosphere and from there, to better inform our decisions as to the most effective ways of dealing with climate change.”

The new vehicles have also been designed by Scaled Composites, which was founded by legendary engineer Burt Rutan, and VG will use them to seek to make affordable, regular sub-orbital spaceflight possible for the first time.

These new vehicles will provide frequent access to suborbital space and high altitudes; understudied regions of critical importance to climate science and modelling. In particular, the VG vehicles will enable frequent access to relatively understudied regions of the Earth’s atmosphere, particularly the upper stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere. The potential collaboration with NOAA will help define the processes and parameters for successful science research onboard the vehicles.

Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic, remarked, “In the years ahead, Virgin Galactic looks forward to working with the global science community using Space Ship Two and White Knight Two as a platform for a range of research and technology demonstration missions.”

About NOAA

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages US coastal and marine resources. http://www.noaa.gov

About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic’s mission is to transform the levels of safety, frequency, cost and environmental impact that have been associated with space access – particularly manned space access – for almost half a century. Virgin Group has begun working across many of its businesses, particularly in the transportation sector, to showcase and push new, carbon efficient technologies that will help provide the solution to human induced climate change. Because of a range of innovations, Virgin Galactic will be operating an environmentally-benign space launch system that will open space and the Earth’s upper atmosphere to scientists at unprecedented frequency.

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