George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company
George is responsible for guiding all aspects of building the world’s first commercial spaceline including our spaceflight program as well as our small satellite launch capability. This includes oversight of our sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), 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.
Currently, George serves on the board of Virgin Unite USA, the non-profit foundation of the 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.
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 of Virgin Galactic
Steve has broad leadership responsibilities across a range of areas including the company’s suborbital spaceflight program as well as development of its satellite launch offering, LauncherOne. 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.
Doug Shane, President of The Spaceship Company
Doug oversees the manufacturing operations of Virgin Galactic’s fleet of SpaceShipTwo spaceships and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft through our sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC).
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 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).
Jonathan Firth, Senior Vice President of Spaceport and Program Development
Jonathan 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 SpaceShipTwo 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 and 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.
Michael P. Moses, Vice President of Operations
Mike 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, astronaut 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 of Operations for The Spaceship Company
Enrico 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 in mechanical engineering and Bachelor of Science in physics and 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 and gas, shipbuilding, and management consulting to Virgin Galactic. A very motivated individual, Enrico moved his family from Perth, Australia to London, England, and then to Mojave, California, in pursuit of his lifelong ambition and dream of taking the space industry to the next level.
Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director
Stephen 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. At Gartmore, his roles focused on the company’s relationship with sophisticated institutional and high net worth clients and prospective clients.
John Rego, Chief Financial Officer
John Rego is Virgin Galactic’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). A licensed CPA, John brings nearly three decades of finance, accounting, and operations experience to the commercial space company. As CFO and a key adviser to the senior management team, John provides overall strategic and operational direction to Virgin Galactic’s accounting, finance, financial planning and analysis, treasury, risk, and tax activities, as well as merger and acquisition transactions.
John joined Virgin Galactic after serving for two years as CFO for AppSense, Inc., a U.K.-based enterprise software company, headquartered in New York. He spent nearly eight years as executive vice president, CFO, and treasurer for Vonage Holdings Corp. in New Jersey, where he raised $1.3 billion in capital, and guided the company through exponential growth from zero to approximately 2.5 million customers and more than $900 million in revenues within six years. Other experience includes senior leadership positions at Petra Solar, Inc., RCN Corporation, and Winstar Communications, among others.
A graduate of Rutgers University, John earned his CPA license in 1985 in the state of New Jersey.
Marc Holzapfel, Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Marc manages the legal, regulatory, and compliance issues of both Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company. He joined Virgin Galactic in 2007 as its first US 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.
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 high growth 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 (Space X), Electronic Arts, Pandemic Studios, Virgin Entertainment, and DreamWorks Animation SKG.
Karen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Diego State University and a master’s degree in human resource management from National University.
Chris Thompson, Vice President of Advanced Programs
Chris oversees Engineering and Development Operations for the LauncherOne program. He leads a broad spectrum of engineers developing the primary systems for LauncherOne and coordinating efforts between the WhiteKnightTwo teams.
In 2012, Chris came to Virgin Galactic following a 10-year stint at Space Exploration Technologies, where he was one of the founding members and Vice President of Structures leading the design, development, and testing of SpaceX’s Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Dragon Capsule for the NASA COTS Program. Chris managed and directly contributed to the Falcon and Dragon programs, ultimately leading to the first privately funded orbital rocket launch and eventual development of the human-rated systems on Falcon 9 and Dragon to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Chris developed the Friction Stir Welding methods and machinery used to weld the Aluminum-Lithium tanks on Falcon 9 and Dragon primary structures. Chris’ efforts led to development of the best performing launch vehicles with some of the best mass fractions seen in industry.
From 1987 to 2002, Chris worked at McDonnell Douglass, which later became Boeing, at the Huntington Beach campus, where he managed the Test and Verification activities on the Delta II, III, and IV programs. While at McDonnell Douglass/Boeing he also worked on many aspects of the mechanisms and truss structures for the International Space Station program and for commercial aircraft programs ranging from the DC-9 to MD-11. Prior to entering the private sector, Chris served as a United States Marine as a CH-53E Helicopter Crew Chief, logging well over 2,000 hours of flight time. Chris served as a Flight Line QA representative working both ground and in-flight QA operations.
Chris attended Cal State Long Beach, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering. Prior to leaving the Marines in 1987, Chris received his A&P License from Embry Riddle. Chris also served as a volunteer mentor at Cal State Long Beach supporting student engineering and liquid rocket projects.
Brian Morse, Senior Program Director, LauncherOne
Brian is responsible for managing the development and operation of the LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle. He joined Virgin Galactic in January of 2012 in his current role.
Brian began his career with Hughes Aircraft Company, working on a range of commercial, civil, and defense satellite programs, ultimately as section head responsible for a large classified satellite program. Brian then joined the Orbital Sciences Corporation as the Director of Mechanical Engineering, leading the development of the Pegasus launch vehicle system. Brian rose to the position of Senior Vice President, Technical Operations at Orbital prior to leaving to assist in the creation of start-up space ventures, including working with Elon Musk both before and after the founding of SpaceX. Immediately prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Brian worked at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, initially shepherding APL’s lunar exploration initiatives and then taking over leadership of NASA’s Solar Probe Plus project, which will gather in-situ measurements of the sun’s corona.
Brian is a mechanical engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He shares in several awards for the Pegasus development, including the National Medal of Technology and the Air and Space Museum Trophy.