23 February 2021

Galactic Unite Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training Program First Cohort Announced

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Virgin Galactic today announced the first students to be awarded scholarships in the Galactic Unite Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training (BLAST) program.

BLAST is a scholarship, mentoring and fellowship program for college Sophomore through to Senior year Black scholars pursuing STEM education with a focus on aerospace in the U.S.

This initiative, launched by Virgin Galactic, and supported by Virgin Orbit, Virgin Hyperloop, Planet, and AEye, will see scholars receive mentoring, paid summer internships, certified leadership and skills training, plus job placement opportunities upon graduation. Each student will receive $5000 in scholarship funding per award, which is renewable for up to 3 years to a total of $15,000.

In addition to the partners, BLAST will also collaborate with the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship program to provide these future leaders with an expanding network of Black peers, colleagues, and role models.

The program is designed to support the next generation of Black leaders who will power the rapidly developing aerospace industry and help solve global challenges in the years to come. At present, Black people make up 13.4% of the US population and 15.3% of American undergraduate and graduate students. However, a recent study by Aviation Week found that only 6% of US Aerospace and Defense workers are Black and when it comes to leadership positions, the same study found that only 3% of aerospace executives are Black.

As a result of this underrepresentation, the aerospace sector is missing out on the advantages brought by hiring, training, and empowering diverse groups of talented people to drive innovation. By actively creating opportunities, the goal of this collaborative effort is to support Black scholars through the academic pipeline, to a successful early career placement, and inspire a more diverse and inclusive aerospace industry.

The award guarantees a paid summer internship at one of the partner companies. Each scholar will receive a mentor throughout their studies, as well as an additional year after graduation to offer support as scholars transition into the workforce. The program also includes access to specialist vocational skills sessions and monthly leadership training.

The BLAST program builds on the success of previous and current Galactic Unite scholarship programs and initiatives that have focused on opening STEM career opportunities to students around the world. Galactic Unite is Virgin Galactic’s long-standing outreach initiative that is a collaboration between company staff, the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut community, and Virgin Unite foundation.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic said, “These fantastic scholars are helping to drive forward the aerospace industry, and I’m delighted to welcome them onto the Galactic Unite BLAST program as our first cohort. Diversity is a key component of innovation, and this scholarship will inject even more creativity and add extra insight into the growing aerospace sector. I look forward to seeing this group of brilliant individuals thrive across the organizations involved in this program, and hope to see them become future leaders in the aerospace industry, inspiring others to follow in their path.”

Michael Kyle, Planet’s Head of Talent and Belonging said, “As Planet continues to invest in our own racial justice commitments, we are proud to be a founding sponsor of BLAST, providing new career pathways into space, specifically and with intention, for members of the Black community, we are in amazing company, and together we will be part of the future for change.”

Amaury Reed, a scholar on the program said, "I am honored to be part of the Galactic Unite Black Leaders in Aerospace Training Program! It has been a dream of mine to contribute to making space more accessible to all and that dream is finally coming to fruition with the help of Virgin Galactic. I am ecstatic to learn as much as possible from my prospective mentor and the rest of the Virgin Galactic Team. Experiences like these really do keep young engineers facing the rigors of their academic course-load motivated, and passionate about the work they do."

The 2021 BLAST Fellows are:

  • Kaylin Moss, a Junior studying Computer Science at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

  • Amaury Reed, a Senior studying Aerospace Engineering at San Diego State University in San Diego, California.

  • Taiwo-Bayonle Olayiwola, a Senior studying Aerospace Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington.

  • Mark Parent, a Junior studying Mechanical Engineering at University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.

  • Benjamin Adarkwa, a Junior studying Aerospace Engineering at University of Maryland at College Park.

  • Joey Arnold, a Junior studying Electrical Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Congratulations to our inaugural class of BLAST Fellows!

About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. is a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers, as well as a manufacturer of advanced air and space vehicles. It is developing a spaceflight system designed to offer customers a unique and transformative experience. You can find more information at https://www.virgingalactic.com/

About Galactic Unite

Galactic Unite scholarship programs have awarded over $1million to more than 100 students globally. Presently, more than half of the scholarship recipients are women; and 37% recipients represent ethnic minorities, including, Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander.

About Planet Labs Inc

Planet is the leading provider of global, daily satellite imagery and geospatial solutions. Planet is driven by a mission to image all of Earth’s landmass every day, and make global change visible, accessible and actionable. Founded in 2010 by three NASA scientists, Planet designs, builds, and operates the largest earth observation fleet of satellites, and provides the online software, tools and analytics that enable users to simply and effectively derive value from satellite imagery. To learn more visit www.planet.com and follow us on Twitter at @planetlabs.

 About AEye

AEye is the premier provider of high-performance, active LiDAR systems for vehicle autonomy, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), and robotic vision applications. AEye’s software-definable iDAR™ (Intelligent Detection and Ranging) platform combines solid-state active LiDAR, an optionally fused low-light HD camera, and integrated deterministic artificial intelligence to capture more intelligent information with less data, enabling faster, more accurate, and more reliable perception. The company is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and backed by world-renowned financial investors including Kleiner Perkins and Taiwania Capital, as well as GM Ventures, Continental AG, Hella Ventures, LG Electronics, Subaru-SBI, Pegasus Ventures (Aisin), Intel Capital, SK Hynix and Airbus Ventures.

 About Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites. Designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, LauncherOne rockets are air-launched from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft – allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit virginorbit.com.

About Virgin Hyperloop

Virgin Hyperloop is the only company in the world that has successfully tested hyperloop technology with passengers, launching the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years. The company successfully operated an occupied hyperloop vehicle using electric propulsion and electromagnetic levitation under near-vacuum conditions, realizing a fundamentally new form of transportation that is faster, safer, cheaper, and more sustainable than existing modes. The company is now working with governments, partners, and investors around the world to make hyperloop a reality in years, not decades. Learn more about Virgin Hyperloop's technology, vision, and ongoing projects here.

GEORGE WHITESIDES

GEORGE WHITESIDES

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD CHAIR

George T. Whitesides is the Chair of the Space Advisory Board, where he is responsible for bringing together aerospace leaders to advise the Virgin Galactic senior management team on the journey towards regular commercial spaceflight, developing the next generation vehicles and exploring new opportunities. Previously, George served as the Chief Space Officer of Virgin Galactic, spearheading the development of future technologies, including high speed, point-to-point travel and orbital flight, after stepping down as CEO in 2020.

George joined Virgin Galactic in 2010 as Chief Executive Officer. During George’s 10 years with the Company, he built the company from 30 people to a workforce of over 900, successfully guiding Virgin Galactic through its human space flight R&D and flight test program, culminating in two space flights. These historic flights saw the first humans launched into space from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, as well as the first woman to fly on a commercial space vehicle. George led the transition of operations from Mojave, California to Spaceport America, New Mexico, and oversaw the company’s successful public listing making it a multi-billion dollar company and creating the world’s first publicly traded human spaceflight venture.

Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA. Upon departure from the American space agency, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.

George’s volunteer service includes Caltech’s Space Innovation Council, Princeton University’s Advisory Council for Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Antelope Valley Economic Development & Growth Enterprise. He is a fellow of the UK Royal Aeronautical Society and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

He previously served as Vice Chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, a member of the Board of Directors of Virgin Galactic, a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Space Technologies, and the Board of Virgin Unite USA. 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. An honors graduate of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, George later earned a master’s degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge, and a Fulbright Scholarship to Tunisia. George is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.

He resides in California with his wife Loretta and two children.

CHRIS HADFIELD

CHRIS HADFIELD

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Colonel Chris Hadfield is a heavily decorated astronaut, engineer, and test pilot who has commanded the International Space Station. Formerly NASA’s Director of Operations in Russia and veteran of three spaceflights, Hadfield’s many awards include the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. Hadfield is a three-time NYT bestselling author, a renowned musician, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, chair of the board of the Open Lunar Foundation, and host of several internationally acclaimed television series. In addition, Hadfield leads the space stream at the Creative Destruction Lab, one of the world’s top tech incubators.

DR SANDRA MAGNUS

DR SANDRA MAGNUS

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Dr. Sandra H. “Sandy” Magnus is the Principal at AstroPlanetview, LLC. Most recently she served as the Deputy Director of Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the Undersecretary of Research and Engineering. In that role she served as the “Chief Engineer” for the Department of Defense establishing engineering policy, propagating best practices and working to connect the engineering community across the department.

Dr. Magnus is the former Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Prior to leading AIAA, she was a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps for 16 years. During her time at NASA she flew in space on the STS-112 shuttle mission in 2002, and on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. In addition, she flew to the International Space Station on STS-126 in November 2008, served as flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18, and returned home on STS-119 after four and a half months on board.

Following her assignment on Station, she served at NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Her last duty at NASA, after STS-135, was as the deputy chief of the Astronaut Office.

While at NASA, Dr. Magnus worked extensively with the international community, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), as well as with Brazil on facility-type payloads. She also spent time in Russia developing and integrating operational products and procedures for the International Space Station.

Before joining NASA, Dr. Magnus worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company as a stealth engineer. While at McDonnell Douglas, she worked on internal R&D and on the Navy’s A-12 Attack Aircraft program.

Dr. Magnus has received numerous awards, including the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and the 40 at 40 Award (given to former collegiate women athletes to recognize the impact of Title IX).

DAVID A. WHELAN

DAVID A. WHELAN

SPACE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER

Dr. David A. Whelan is the SVP Chief-Scientist of Cubic Corporation. Dr. Whelan retired from Boeing in 2017, as the Vice President, Engineering (BDS) and Board of Directors for HRL Laboratories. Whelan served as Director of the Tactical Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and began his career at Northrop as designer of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Whelan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Physical Society and IEEE. He earned his Ph.D. Physics from UCLA; He holds over 75 US patents.