George T Whitesides, CEO and President
George Whitesides is the CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson. With Scaled Composites, the company has developed the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles, based on the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne. In his role, Whitesides is responsible for guiding all aspects of the company to commercial operation at Spaceport America in New Mexico. This includes oversight of The Spaceship Company, a joint venture with Scaled to manufacture additional vehicle sets. The company currently has deposits from over 530 individuals for its spaceflight experience.
Prior to Virgin Galactic, Whitesides served as Chief of Staff for NASA, where he provided policy and staff support to the agency’s Administrator. Upon departure from the agency he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.
Prior to his role at NASA, Whitesides served as Executive Director of the National Space Society (NSS). NSS is a space policy and advocacy group that was founded by Apollo program leader Wernher von Braun and the journalist Hugh Downs.Read More
Whitesides currently serves on the board of Virgin Unite USA, the philanthropic organization of Virgin Group; the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Space Security; and the advisory board of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation. He is a fellow of the UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society.
He has previously served as Chairman of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He served for a limited period as a member of the National Research Council Space Studies Board's Committee on the Rationale and Goals of the US Civil Space Program. He served for four years on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University.
Whitesides began his career at Orbital Sciences Corporation as executive intern and subsequently special assistant to the president. He served as Vice President of Marketing for Zero Gravity Corporation, a private space-tourism company, during its launch period, and Director of Marketing for Blastoff Corporation, a space- experience company funded by film and technology leaders.
With his wife Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, Whitesides co-founded Yuri's Night, an annual global celebration of space that has been celebrated in over 50 countries. Mr. Whitesides co-founded Permission to Dream, a global space education program that donated telescopes to underprivileged children.
Whitesides has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate and the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Whitesides maintains an active speaking and media schedule. Whitesides was selected by Space News as one of twelve 'People to Watch.’
Mr. Whitesides received his undergraduate degree in public and international affairs with honors from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, a master’s degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge in England, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Tunisia. Whitesides is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.
Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director
Stephen Attenborough is the Commercial Director for Virgin Galactic, joining the company as its first full time employee in 2004, with responsibility for laying the commercial foundations and framework for the organization, including spearheading ongoing sales, business development marketing, PR, promotional and customer retention initiatives.
Prior to Galactic, Stephen worked for Gartmore Investment Management plc, a major London based investment management firm, where he performed a number of management and senior management for more than 15 years. The roles undertaken over the period focused on the company’s relationship with sophisticated institutional and high net worth clients and prospective clients. Stephen is a regular speaker at numerous industry and other conferences on behalf of Virgin Galactic.
Jonathan Firth, Director, Operations & Projects
Jonathan Firth has been a member of Virgin Galactic’s leadership team since its inception in 2004, initially as Project Director, and moved into his current role in January 2008. His responsibilities include: the Spaceflight System Development Program being undertaken by Scaled Composites; the activities of The Spaceship Company, which has been established to build further spaceflight vehicles, initially for Virgin Galactic; the relationship with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which is overseeing construction of Spaceport America, the future home of Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceliner fleet; and ongoing operational activity to ready Virgin Galactic for its start of commercial operations.
Jonathan joined Virgin in 1998 as Virgin Rail Group’s Project Director and was responsible for delivery of the Pendolino and Voyager tilting train projects. After that, he spent three years as Director of Projects at Virgin Atlantic Airways, where he was responsible for overseeing the airline’s portfolio of business-led projects.
Before joining Virgin, Jonathan enjoyed a diverse career in projects and project management. He has worked on Oil & Gas, Petrochemicals, Mass Transit, Main Line Rail, Aviation and Aerospace projects, and holds an honors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London and an MBA from Henley.
Steve Isakowitz, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
Steve Isakowitz is the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Galactic. In his role, Isakowitz has leadership responsibilities across a range of areas as the company prepares to begin commercial operation of its space vehicles. Specifically, he leads technical oversight of key programs, development and management of new programs, government and industry business development, government affairs, advanced technologies, and strategic analysis. Isakowitz has previously held a wide variety of engineering, business, and management roles across the technology and government sectors. He served in several senior positions at NASA, where he received NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal, including the role of Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. At NASA, Isakowitz was responsible for helping to set overall priorities, guiding the development of new technologies and systems, and promoting innovative approaches such as prizes and commercial space transportation.
The author of the well-known International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems, Isakowitz earned bachelors’ and masters’ degrees in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most recently, Isakowitz served as Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Energy through two presidential administrations, where he was responsible for determining priorities and identifying high-payoff technologies in the department’s $26 billion annual budget. Previously, he served as Branch Chief of Science and Space Programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, as an aerospace engineer and project manager for space launch vehicles at Lockheed Martin (formerly Martin Marietta), and as a senior consultant in the commercial space division of consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.
Marc Holzapfel, Senior Vice President & General Counsel
Marc F. Holzapfel is Senior Vice President & Legal Director of Virgin Galactic. As the first US employee, he has been with Virgin Galactic since 2007 and is actively involved in all legal aspects of bringing the project to commercial launch. Based in New York, he sits on the Company's leadership team and manages the legal, regulatory, and compliance issues of both Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.
Prior to Virgin Galactic, Marc was Associate Counsel at The Linde Group, Inc., the German industrial gas company. Fluent in German and proficient in Spanish, Marc led all M&A and commercial activities for the Americas and provided intellectual property, litigation, government, and regulatory advice for these regions. Before going in-house, Marc was an Associate in the New York offices of the international law firm of Jones, Day where he worked on M&A, investments, and other transactional matters, representing mainly private equity groups on both the buyer and seller side.
Michael P. Moses, Vice President of Operations for Virgin Galactic
As the Vice President of Operations for Virgin Galactic, Mike oversees the commercial suborbital spaceflight program that will be operating from Spaceport America in New Mexico. He will be leading the team in all aspects of safe and successful spaceline operations, including White Knight 2 and Spaceship 2 vehicle processing, flight planning, customer training and flight crew operations.
Mike came to Virgin Galactic following a distinguished career in NASA's recently-retired Space Shuttle Program. He served at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the Launch Integration Manager from 2008 until the landing of the final Shuttle mission in July 2011, where he led all Space Shuttle processing activities from landing through launch, and served as chair of the Mission Management Team where he provided ultimate launch decision authority. Prior to this, Mike was a Flight Director at the NASA Johnson Space Center where he led teams of Flight Controllers in the planning, training and execution of Space Shuttle missions. Before being selected as a Flight Director in 2005, Moses had over 10 years experience as a Flight Controller in the Shuttle Propulsion and Electrical Systems Groups.
Moses holds a bachelors degree in physics from Purdue University, a masters degree in space sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and a masters degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University. He is a two-time recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal as well as other NASA commendations and awards.
Enrico Palermo, Vice President, Operations for TSC
Enrico Palermo is responsible for growing the operations of The Spaceship Company (TSC), the new aerospace production company based in Mojave, California. TSC was founded by Virgin and Scaled Composites with the mission of building the world’s first fleet of commercial spaceships and carrier aircraft intended to make widespread space travel a reality. Enrico directs and leads the establishment of TSC’s operations in Mojave including TSC’s engineering, supply chain, quality assurance, production and business infrastructure functions.
Since joining the company in 2006, Enrico has served as a key member of the Virgin management team for the SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo development program at Scaled Composites. Following the development of TSC’s business plan in 2008, Enrico took on his current position to startup and grow TSC.
Enrico is an alumni of the International Space University and has a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) and Bachelor of Science (Physics, Mathematics) from the University of Western Australia.
Jon Turnipseed, Vice President of Safety
As Virgin Galactic’s Head of Safety, Jon’s role is to define and develop the operational safety framework and lead the team in keeping safety as Virgin Galactic’s North Star. His responsibilities encompass all safety aspects of the company’s operations, from standard OSHA compliance through space launch mission activities. He also coordinates Safety programs with Scaled Composites, The Spaceship Company and with Spaceport America. Jon has held key leadership roles with diverse aerospace organizations and companies such as NASA, Computer Sciences Corporation, Integrated Science Solutions Inc., AlliedSignal Aerospace, Rockwell International. He is a retired Major from the U.S. Air Force.
Jon is a Professional Member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and as a member of ASSE’s governmental affairs committee has twice testified before Congress. He holds the highest formally accredited safety ranking as a Certified Safety Professional® and has a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from the University of Iowa and a Master’s Degree in Safety from Central Missouri State University.
Ken Sunshine, Chief Financial Officer
Ken Sunshine is Chief Financial Officer of Virgin Galactic. He is responsible for managing the company’s financial strategy, driving growth and overseeing all finance and accounting functions as Virgin Galactic transitions from a development project to a commercially operational business.
Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Ken served as Chief Financial Officer at MDA Information Systems. He has also previously worked as CFO of the National Institute of Aerospace, CFO of Aurora Flight Sciences, Senior Vice President of Finance at Orbital Science Corporation, and as an engineer at Draper Laboratories.
Ken received an MBA from the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and an engineering degree from Tufts University.
Karen Gifford, Vice President of People
Karen Gifford is the Vice President of People for Virgin Galactic. Karen brings over 20 years of management and consulting experience specializing in creating and developing Human Resource operations and infrastructure for start-ups and high growth companies. She is responsible for the strategic design and management of organizational and people programs that drive the business forward and inspire a culture of fun, innovation and excellence.
Karen has held a number of top Human Resources Leadership positions for numerous private and public organizations both domestic and international. Her experience spans multiple industries including aerospace, entertainment media, internet, software development, telecommunications, retail and manufacturing. Most recently, she was Head of Human Resources at Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends a massive multiplayer online game. Prior to that she held Human Resources leadership positions at top companies such as Space Exploration Technologies (SPACEX), Electronic Arts, Pandemic Studios, Virgin Entertainment, and DreamWorks Animation SKG. She received a Bachelor's of Arts in Sociology from San Diego State University and a Master's in Human Resource Management from National University.