19 May 2020

Galactic Unite Grants Twelve Scholarships to Students During COVID-19 Pandemic


Through our Galactic Unite initiative, we’ve continued to award STEM scholarships to students pursuing degrees in aerospace during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, Galactic Unite, together with Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts, has awarded $20,000 in scholarships, to nine students from San Diego State University and three from University of California, San Diego. The scholarship includes funding and access to a year-long mentoring package from staff at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.

Galactic Unite aims to drive positive change for young people by working to ensure future generations are equipped to apply the space perspective to Earth’s greatest challenges. As a part of that, we seek to inspire the next generation of engineers, pilots and rocket scientists to pursue careers within the fast-emerging commercial space industry. These are unsettling times for all, but especially for many young students who are now having to learn from home while schools have been closed.

Joshua Elmer is a recipient of the Galactic Unite Jones’ Scholarship, funded by Future Astronaut, Gavin Jones, and is one of the twelve students to receive a scholarship during the Covid-19 pandemic: “This scholarship means I get to continue studying what I’m most passionate about, in the school I’m proud to be a part of, while also helping to take a significant burden off my family,” said Joshua. “The opportunity to work with a mentor and learn from someone who has already been where I’m going is also fantastic.  I’m grateful for the doors this scholarship will open, and for the opportunities awaiting me and my family on the other side which might not have been possible otherwise.”

Galactic Unite was born out of a unique collaboration between Virgin Galactic, its community of Future Astronauts, and Sir Richard Branson’s Foundation, Virgin Unite.  It launched a global scholarship program in 2012 focused on promoting diversity in STEM and space education. Our Future Astronauts have donated $1 million into Galactic Unite scholarships which we have distributed to 93 students across the world.

“I’ve been supporting Galactic Unite for over six years and have been impressed by the enthusiasm of the student scholars and the tremendous support they receive from Galactic Unite,” said, Scott Borden, Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut and founder of the Galactic Unite Borden Scholarship at San Diego State University. 

Our mentors provide guidance to our Galactic Unite scholars across a wide range of areas and skills, including day to day college life. During these unprecedented times, our mentors are helping scholars navigate the challenges and preparing them for what lies ahead. Many of our scholars and mentors keep in touch even after graduating and going into the work force. Four of our former Galactic Unite scholarship recipients are now full-time employees across Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit and some are now mentors themselves, offering the same support they received as part of the program.

Christian Engelbrecht was one of the first Galactic Unite Borden Scholarship recipients and after graduating he joined The Spaceship Company as a full-time member of staff.  “The Galactic Unite scholarship was an invaluable stepping stone for my career; without it, I wouldn’t be living my dream job every day. The support I got progressed into an internship at The Spaceship Company, which has turned into a full-time career that I couldn’t be more fortunate to have”, said Christian. “I’ve played a vital role in Spaceship Unity’s progress towards spaceflight, and have recently started control room training. To be able to be in the control room during a human spaceflight mission is a life goal of mine.”

In the fall of 2019, we partnered with New Mexico State University (NMSU), the local university to Virgin Galactic’s commercial headquarters, The Gateway to Space at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Through this relationship, Galactic Unite launched a scholarship program that is currently supporting 11 students pursuing space-focused STEM majors.

Just before the COVID-19 outbreak in February, the NMSU scholars visited Spaceport America for an educational tour and mentoring session delivered by our team at Virgin Galactic.“Getting to see VSS Unity in person gave me a rush of emotions. As an engineer, you read and study these complex systems, but seeing these beautiful aircraft up close helps visualize all the work that goes into such designs,” said, Luis Terrones, NMSU Student.We want to congratulate and welcome our new Galactic Unite Scholars to the family, and we hope to see you all soon! 

About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is a vertically-integrated aerospace company, pioneering human spaceflight for private individuals and researchers, as well as a manufacturer of advanced air and space vehicles. Using its proprietary and reusable technologies and supported by a distinctive, Virgin-branded customer experience, it is developing a spaceflight system designed to offer customers a unique, multi-day, transformative experience. This culminates in a spaceflight that includes views of Earth from space and several minutes of weightlessness that will launch from Spaceport America, New Mexico. Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company believe that one of the most exciting and significant opportunities of our time lies in the commercial exploration of space and the development of technology that will change the way we travel across the globe in the future. Together we are opening access to space to change the world for good.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities laws with respect to Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (the “Company”), including statements regarding the Company’s spaceflight systems, markets and expected performance. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by words such as “believe,” “project,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “intend,” “strategy,” “future,” “opportunity,” “plan,” “may,” “should,” “will,” “would,” and similar expressions. Forward looking statements are predictions, projections and other statements about future events that are based on current expectations and assumptions and, as a result, are subject to risks and uncertainties. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements in this presentation, including but not limited to the factors, risks and uncertainties regarding the Company’s business described in the documents filed by the Company from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). These filings identify and address other important risks and uncertainties that could cause the Company’s actual events and results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on forward-looking statements, and, except as required by law, the Company assumes no obligation and does not intend to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.




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.




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 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).




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.