George T Whitesides, CEO
George Whitesides is the CEO of Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson. With Scaled Composites, the company has developed the SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo vehicles, based on the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne. In his role, George 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 sister company, to manufacture a fleet of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo space vehicles.
Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA, where he provided policy and staff support to the agency’s Administrator. Upon departure from NASA, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.
Prior to his role at NASA, George served as Executive Director of the National Space Society (NSS), a space policy and advocacy group that was founded by Apollo program leader Wernher von Braun and the journalist Hugh Downs.
George began his career at Orbital Sciences Corporation as Executive Intern, and later, 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.
Currently, George serves on the board of Virgin Unite USA, the philanthropic organization of Virgin Group. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Space Security; an advisory board member of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation; a fellow of the UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society; and an associate fellow of AIAA. He previously chaired the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He served for four years on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University.
With his wife Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, George co-founded Yuri's Night, an annual global celebration of space that has been celebrated in more than 50 countries. He also cofounded Permission to Dream, a global space education program that donates telescopes to underprivileged children.
George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Space News selected him as one of 12 “People to Watch” in the space industry.
An honors graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, George earned his undergraduate degree in public and international affairs. He later earned 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. George is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.
Steve Isakowitz, President
As President of Virgin Galactic, Steve Isakowitz has broad leadership responsibilities across a range of areas as the company prepares to begin commercial operation of its space vehicles. Steve joined the company in September 2011 as the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer where he led technical oversight of key programs, development and management of new programs, government and industry business development, government affairs, advanced technologies and strategic analysis.
Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Steve held a wide variety of senior engineering, business, and management roles across the private and government sectors including NASA, where he served as Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. At NASA, he helped set overall priorities, guide development of innovative technologies and systems, and architected new programs in robotic and human spaceflight. For his work at NASA, Steve received the agency’s Outstanding Leadership Medal.
He also served as Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Energy through two presidential administrations. Other experience includes serving as Branch Chief of Science and Space Programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, an aerospace engineer and project manager for space launch vehicles at Lockheed Martin, and as a senior consultant in the commercial space division of Booz Allen Hamilton.
Steve holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of the well-known International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems.
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, public relations, licensing, partnerships and customer retention initiatives. Stephen is a regular speaker at numerous industry and other conferences and events on behalf of Virgin Galactic.
Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Stephen worked for Gartmore Investment Management, a major London-based investment management firm, where he performed a number of management and senior management activities 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.
Jonathan Firth, Director, Operations & Projects
Jonathan Firth has been a member of Virgin Galactic’s leadership team since its inception in 2004. Initially joining the company as Project Director, he moved into his current role as Director, Operations and Projects in January 2008. He oversees the company’s activity to ready itself for commercial operations, including the Spaceflight System Development Program and the relationship with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which has overseen construction of Spaceport America (the future home of Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceliner fleet).
Jonathan began his Virgin career in 1998 as Project Director of Virgin Rail Group, where he 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 supervised the airline’s portfolio of business-led projects.
Throughout his entire engineering and project management career, Jonathan has worked in a diverse array of industries, including oil & gas, petrochemicals, mass transit, main line rail, aviation and aerospace. He holds an honors degree in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London and an MBA from Henley Business School.
Doug Shane, Executive Vice President and General Manager, The Spaceship Company
Doug Shane is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of The Spaceship Company (TSC). In this position, Doug oversees the manufacturing operations of Virgin Galactic’s fleet of SpaceShipTwo spaceships and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
Prior to his position with TSC, Doug had a 31-year career at Scaled Composites where he conducted the first flights of eight different aircraft and led Scaled’s acquisition of an FAA Commercial Launch License for SpaceShipOne, the first-ever crewed commercial licensed launch. In addition to serving as Director of Flight Operations, Doug served for many years as Vice President of Business Development, increasing Scaled’s revenue more than tenfold. Doug became President of Scaled following the retirement of company founder and aerospace legend Burt Rutan.
Doug holds a bachelor of science degree in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Kansas and numerous awards, including the Iven C. Kincheloe and James H. Doolittle awards from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, as well as the Robert J. Collier Trophy. Doug has also served as President of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP).
Marc Holzapfel, Senior Vice President & General Counsel
Marc Holzapfel is Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Virgin Galactic, where he manages the legal, regulatory and compliance issues of both Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company. He joined Virgin Galactic in 2007 as its first U.S. employee, and sits on the company’s leadership team. Marc is actively involved in all legal aspects of bringing the business to commercial launch.
Prior to Virgin Galactic, Marc was Associate Counsel at The Linde Group, Inc., a German industrial gas company. Fluent in German and proficient in Spanish, he led all mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and commercial activities for the Americas and provided intellectual property, litigation, government and regulatory advice for these regions. Marc also worked as an Associate in the New York office of Jones, Day, an international law firm. There, he worked on M&A, investments and other transactional matters, representing mainly private equity groups on both the buyer and seller side.
Ken Sunshine, Chief Financial Officer
Ken Sunshine is Chief Financial Officer for Virgin Galactic. He is responsible for managing the company’s financial strategy, driving growth and overseeing all finance and accounting functions as the company transitions from its development program to commercial operations.
Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Ken served as CFO at MDA Information Systems. Other CFO positions include stints at the National Institute of Aerospace and Aurora Flight Sciences. He also worked as Senior Vice President of Finance at Orbital Sciences 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.
Michael P. Moses, Vice President of Operations for Virgin Galactic
As Vice President of Operations for Virgin Galactic, Mike Moses oversees the commercial suborbital spaceflight program. He leads the team in all aspects of safe and successful spaceline operations, including WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicle processing, flight planning, customer training and flight crew operations.
Mike came to Virgin Galactic following a distinguished career with NASA. From 2008 through July 2011, he served at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the Launch Integration Manager, where he led all space shuttle processing activities from landing through launch. Mike also chaired the Mission Management Team where he provided ultimate shuttle launch decision authority. Other NASA experience includes working as a Flight Director at the 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, Mike had more than 10 years of experience as a flight controller in the Shuttle Propulsion and Electrical Systems Groups.
Mike attended Purdue University, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. He also earned a master’s degree in space sciences from Florida Institute of Technology. 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 operations for The Spaceship Company (TSC), the aerospace production company founded by Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites to build the world’s first fleet of commercial spaceships and carrier aircraft. As Vice President/Operations for TSC, Enrico oversees operations for the Mojave-based company, including engineering, supply chain, quality assurance, production and business infrastructure functions.
Enrico joined Virgin Galactic in 2006, and has served as a key management team member for the SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo development program. Enrico led TSC’s establishment from a business plan concept to a thriving spaceship production company.
Enrico is an alumnus of the International Space University and has a Bachelor of Engineering (mechanical) and Bachelor of Science (physics, mathematics) from the University of Western Australia. Enrico brings a wealth of operations management, technical engineering and business planning experience from a variety of industries including oil & gas, shipbuilding, and management consulting to Virgin Galactic. A very motivated individual, Enrico moved his family from Perth, Australia to London and then to Mojave in pursuit of his lifelong ambitions and dreams of taking the space industry to the next level.
Karen Gifford, Vice President of People
Karen Gifford is the Vice President of People for Virgin Galactic. She is responsible for the strategic design and management of organizational and people programs that drive Virgin Galactic forward and inspire a culture of fun, innovation and excellence.
With more than 20 years of management and consulting experience, Karen specializes in creating and developing human resource operations and infrastructure for start-ups and highgrowth companies. Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Karen worked as Head of Human Resources at Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, a massive multiplayer online game. Prior to that, she held numerous human resources leadership positions at private and public companies, both domestic and international. These include Space Exploration Technologies (SPACEX), Electronic Arts, Pandemic Studios, Virgin Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation SKG.
Karen received a bachelor's in sociology from San Diego State University and a master's in human resource management from National University.
Jon Turnipseed, Vice President of Safety
As Vice President of Safety, Jon Turnipseed defines and develops the operational safety framework for Virgin Galactic. His responsibilities encompass all safety aspects of the company’s operations, from standard Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance through space launch mission activities. He also coordinates safety programs with Scaled Composites, The Spaceship Company and with Spaceport America.
Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Jon held key leadership roles with diverse aerospace organizations and companies, such as NASA, Computer Sciences Corporation, Integrated Science Solutions Inc., AlliedSignal Aerospace and Rockwell International. He is a retired Major from the U.S. Air Force. His experience with aviation and space safety covers diverse areas including military and NASA aircraft, Space Shuttle recovery team for Edwards AFB landings, as well as being a Launch Director for launching large missiles and rockets on the Western Test Range.
Jon is a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and as a member of ASSE’s governmental affairs committee, he 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.