20 May 2019

Introducing the Astronaut Edition Range Rover

Virgin Galactic has always put the customer at the very centre of its business.Its Future Astronauts from around the world are pioneers in a new space age, which is set to transform our lives. They have played a vital, enabling role and have become a unique community, connected by a passion to open space for the benefit of life on Earth.  Land Rover, Virgin Galactic’s exclusive automotive partner, has immortalised this moment in history by creating a special edition Range Rover, the Astronaut Edition, to celebrate the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut community and its contribution to the democratisation of space.

At a private event on Thursday May 9th, Richard Branson joined Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts, for the unveiling of the Astronaut Edition Range Rover.

Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Chief design Officer, walked Richard through the design process of the limited-edition commission, which has been brought to reality by Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division. Along with design features which represent the Future Astronauts’ connections with each other, with the spaceship and with history of flight, the Astronaut Edition is also a manifestation of the values and vision that are shared by Land Rover and Virgin Galactic.

The Astronaut Edition is available exclusively to the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut community, and is the latest evolution of the wide-ranging and long-standing partnership between the two companies.

A meeting of pioneering minds, on land and in space

 Land Rover joined Virgin Galactic on its journey to space in 2014 as exclusive automotive partner to the world’s first commercial spaceline. Since then, a fleet of Land Rover vehicles has been on the ground at the company’s development and test facilities in Mojave and at its home, Spaceport America in New Mexico, providing valuable support for the Virgin Galactic team as it moves ever closer to regular commercial flights.Right from the start, the partnership has been an authentic collaboration borne out of both brands’ shared vision to push the boundaries of travel, from the Earth’s surface through to space. The partnership illustrates the sense of exploration and adventure which sits at the core of these two British brands and the Astronaut Edition vehicle has been crafted with that in mind.Both Virgin Galactic and Land Rover are committed to ambitious visions for a future of better, sustainable travel. Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts share that pioneering spirit and this car is a physical embodiment of that character.

Connecting Future Astronauts and their spaceflight

 The Astronaut Edition reflects a design philosophy which combines fit-for-purpose with a simple but elegant beauty; an approach synonymous with the architecture of Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight system. The often remarked upon wooden skid which acts as a highly effective, lightweight braking mechanism within SpaceShipTwo’s landing gear, is a perfect representation of this shared ideology. A part of the skid from a Future Astronauts’ own spaceflight will be engraved and re-fashioned to form an integral part of the Astronaut Edition’s centre console.This is just one of many bespoke features which have been executed by the Special Vehicle Operations Division at Land Rover’s state-of-the-art Technical Centre in Warwickshire, UK.

Futuristic technology, breath-taking design

 Crossing new frontiers and creating incredible design means pushing the boundaries of technology. The ‘Zero Gravity’ exterior colour is unique to the Astronaut Edition.  A multi-layered paint that mirrors the inky, infinite depths of a star-filled night sky.

The history of flight, represented throughout

 The Virgin Galactic ‘DNA of Flight’ logo, which showcases the progress of aviation and spaceflight through time, adorns the carbon fibre console drawer lid, and is also embossed onto the seat. The story begins with Icarus and ends with Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The connected Future Astronaut community

 Further detailing takes the form of the iconographical representation of 58 stars in a constellation, one for every nation represented in the future astronaut community.

Best of the pioneers in land and in space

When the doors open, a bespoke puddle lamp switches on to illuminate the ground and shows a silhouette of SpaceShipTwo. 

Performance without compromise

 Land Rover and Virgin Galactic are committed to a future of transportation which is clean and sustainable. The Astronaut Edition is equipped with Land Rover’s advanced 404hp plug-in hybrid where available. A sustainable solution, without compromising performance, experience or design.

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.