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).
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.
Jonathan Firth, Executive Vice President of Spaceport and Program Development
Jonathan Firth has been a member of Virgin Galactic’s leadership team since its inception in 2004. He joined the company as Project Director, and later moved into the role of Director of Operations and Projects in 2008, and then to the U.S. for his current role as Executive Vice President of Spaceport & Program Development in July 2014. He oversees the company’s activity to ready itself for commercial operations in New Mexico, including the development of the Suborbital Spaceflight System, the preparations for Operational Readiness and the relationship with the NM Spaceport Authority, which is responsible for the operation of Spaceport America, the future home of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo fleet.
Jonathan began his Virgin career in the UK in 1998 as Project Director of Virgin Rail Group, where he was responsible for delivery of the Pendolino and Super Voyager tilting train projects on the UK West Coast and CrossCountry networks respectively. 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 career in engineering and project management, 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, Senior 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.
Todd Ericson, Vice President of Safety and Test
Todd joined Virgin Galactic in 2014 as a pilot of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. With his experience as a former Safety Director and pilot in the US Air Force, he served in critical safety roles during ground and test flights. Today, Todd’s responsibilities extend across the full range of the company’s activities: the manufacture and testing of both the second SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle and flights of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
Todd brings 23 years of military and aviation safety experience to the role including service as the Chief of Safety for the US Air Force Test Center, where he was responsible for test, ground, weapons and flight safety for all US Air Force experimental and developmental test programs. Todd also served as Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the USAF, where he directed performance and safety for over 600 personnel engaged in flight operations and maintenance for 21 diverse aircraft types.
He is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree and the Langley Award as the Outstanding Cadet in Aeronautical Engineering. He received a master’s degree in Aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.
A distinguished graduate of every flying program he attended, including winning both the Air Training Command Commander’s Trophy as the top graduate of Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Class 92-07 and the McKenna Trophy as the top graduate of the Empire Test Pilots School’s 60th Fixed Wing Course, Todd amassed over 230 combat hours in the F-16 during Operation Allied Force where he earned seven Air Medals. He is a 2011 distinguished graduate from USAF Air War College where he was awarded Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies and won the General Charles Horner Award. Todd has logged more than 8,500 flight hours in over 90 diverse aircraft types.
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.
Barry A. Matsumori, Senior Vice President Of Business Development And Advanced Concepts
Barry is responsible for all business development at Virgin Galactic, bringing over 25 years of experience in technology and business. He is also responsible for the development next generation products as well as long-term product roadmap.
Prior to Virgin Galactic, Barry was senior vice president at SpaceX, responsible for all sales and business development at SpaceX. During his tenure, he oversaw the significant expansion of SpaceX’s launch service business base. This responsibility included all US government and Depart of Defense markets as well as the international commercial markets.
Prior to SpaceX, Barry worked for several key telecom companies, primarily at Qualcomm, in developing mobile communications technologies and products lines. His most recent role at Qualcomm was as Vice President, Wireless Connectivity. In this capacity his responsibilities included product management, marketing, and technical development of mobile telecom module products. He had worked on the development of satellite communication infrastructure and terminals at Qualcomm also.
Barry had also worked with early stage technology companies in executive management roles. This included developing new product lines based on leading edge technologies or maturing operational processes leading to an IPO. In a prior role, he was Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer for Ethertronics; an advanced RF front end and antenna products company.
Barry holds a BS in business from Arizona State University and an MS in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona.
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.
Richard DalBello, Vice President of Business Development and Government Affairs
As Virgin Galactic’s Vice President of Business Development and Government Affairs, Richard is responsible for managing business development focusing on LauncherOne, the company’s dedicated orbital launch vehicle for small satellites. Richard will be also responsible for managing the company’s interactions with the US government.
Prior to joining Virgin, Richard served as Director, Space and Aeronautics, in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this role, he served as the principal advisor on space and aeronautics matters to Dr. John Holdren, the Science Advisor to the President. In this position, Richard played a key role in the development and implementation of the Administration’s domestic and international space policy and program priorities.
Prior to joining OSTP, Richard served as the Vice President of Government Affairs for Intelsat General. He served previously as president of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, and for more than three years as the president of the Satellite Industry Association. Earlier, Richard was General Counsel for Spotcast Communications Inc., and Vice President of Government Affairs, North America, for ICO Global Communications, a provider of mobile satellite communications services. He also served for four years as the Assistant Director for Space and Aeronautics in the Clinton White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Richard earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in law from McGill University, and a doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of San Francisco.
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.
Tim Buzza, Program Director, LauncherOne
Tim is responsible for managing the development and operation of the LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle. He joined Virgin Galactic in June of 2014, initially leading Launch Operations for LauncherOne.
Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Tim served as SpaceX’s Vice President of Launch and Test. Having joined SpaceX in 2002 as one of its earliest employees, Tim led the development, testing, and successful launch of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, and the Dragon spacecraft. In addition, Tim led design, construction, and operation of SpaceX launch sites at Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, and the Kwajalein Atoll.
Previously, Tim spent nearly 15 years at McDonnell Douglas (later merged with Boeing), where he worked on the Delta IV launch vehicle, the MD-11 wide-body jet airliner, and the C-17 military transport aircraft.
Tim received his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. He was recently awarded the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award for 2015.
Will Pomerantz, Vice President, Special Projects
Will helps extend Virgin Galactic’s business beyond suborbital space tourism, developing efforts such as the LauncherOne orbital launch vehicle for small satellites as well as suborbital research campaigns on board SpaceShipTwo.
Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Will ran space prizes at the non-profit XPRIZE Foundation, where he served as the primary author and manager of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE and the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander XCHALLENGE. Will has also worked at Brown University, the Futron Corporation, and the United Nations, and was the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of SpaceAlumni.com, an early social network for space professionals.
Will earned a bachelor’s degree in Planetary Sciences from Harvard University and a master’s degree in Space Studies from the International Space University.
Will currently serves as a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. Will also serves as a Trustee and the Chair of the Board of Advisers for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), the world’s largest student space organization, and is a member of the Professional Development Committee of Women in Aerospace.
W. Christine Choi, Head of Communications
Christine Choi is responsible for managing Virgin Galactic’s communications with the global community. Her role involves supporting Sir Richard Branson, helping to incubate Virgin start-ups, and providing strategic brand and communications counsel to existing Virgin companies in the Americas. She is also Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Virgin Management USA, as well as a Trustee at Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group.
Before joining the Virgin Group, Christine served as the founding director of communications and founding director of knowledge management at the KIPP Foundation (Knowledge is Power Program), the renowned national network of public charter schools; she was also a founding board member of two of its most successful schools and continues to serve on the board of KIPP New Jersey, which includes high-performing charter schools in Newark and new schools in Camden. Christine started her career as a founding member of Teach For America; she continues to be committed to public education reform.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Williams College and a master’s degree in business from the University of Houston’s Executive MBA Program.
Adam Wells, Head of Design
Adam is leading the design of SpaceShipTwo’s cabin interiors and seating systems – unique product solutions that are being custom developed to enable the Virgin Galactic spaceflight experience by working in varying ‘g’ orientations and microgravity. He is also key to the development of facilities at Spaceport America, as well as Virgin Galactic’s apparel systems and other products that future astronauts can look forward to. He works closely with Virgin Galactic’s Commercial team on design & brand projects including the fostering of quality partner collaborations.
Adam started working for Virgin Galactic in early 2008 from within Virgin USA in New York, before becoming a full time employee in 2011. At Virgin USA he was also responsible for the product-experience and brand development of new startup companies being incubated there, including Virgin Hotels and Virgin Cruises.
Prior to that Adam designed Virgin America’s product-experience, having moved to the US to become the airline’s 4th employee. He designed cabin interiors & mood lighting systems, airport environments, uniforms and other accessory products that helped launch the airline in 2007 and contributed to the airline winning multiple years of passenger experience awards.
Adam’s first role within the Virgin Group was with Virgin Atlantic, where he invented and co-designed the Upper Class Suite – a highly inventive & multi-award-winning business class seating system first launched in 2003.
His career was launched with a 1 year internship at Dyson Research, which he held before graduating his degree in Industrial Design.