02 November 2020

Virgin Galactic Flight Test Program Update: Spaceflight from New Mexico Progress

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It’s a hive of activity here at Spaceport America as preparations to deliver Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight from New Mexico later this Fall continue to progress well.

This beautiful corner of southern New Mexico will be the beating heart of our spaceflight operations and the launchpad where we will help open commercial human spaceflight to the world. There is rich spaceflight history here in New Mexico, including the first photo of earth from space, taken by a rocket in 1946. Our next spaceflight is set to deliver that first taste of human spaceflight for the state and, having completed two spaceflights, we as a team know how special these historic moments can be.

If all goes to plan, not only will this flight be the first human spaceflight to depart from New Mexico, it will also mark Virgin Galactic Pilot CJ Sturckow’s sixth time in space, and will see him become the first person to have flown to space from three different U.S. States, an extraordinary professional achievement. I too have had a long relationship with space. At NASA I worked numerous Space Shuttle missions and oversaw the launch of 12 flights, and I have managed another two during my time at Virgin Galactic.  This mission will mark number 15! One thing is for certain, the feeling you get from witnessing your team run a safe and successful mission, followed by greeting the astronauts on their return to earth, never ceases to thrill me.

CJ, like the rest of the team, is focused on completing a safe flight that meets all test objectives and moves us another step closer to welcoming our Future Astronauts on board. CJ will be alongside our Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay, in the cockpit, as we verify a number of key points to take us to the next stage of our flight test program. While we are planning for CJ and Dave to reach space, if test conditions on the day suggest a shorter burn, that’s fine and we’ll return to fly again soon.  The spaceflight system is designed for rapid commercial turnaround, so it is much better to stay on the side of caution and return to base to understand the data and prepare for another test flight.

One thing to note about this flight is that once we are in space, we will be flying slightly differently than how we plan to fly with our Future Astronauts. This is because we’ll have three NASA payloads in the cabin, flown through NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. Unlike our Future Astronauts,  these payloads aren’t on board for the view, so instead of stopping the vehicle pitch in the inverted position for the best views of Earth, we’ll pitch the vehicle 270 degrees following boost to get to the entry attitude as soon as possible.  This maneuver will maximize time for the payloads to remain in data-collection mode. Carrying these payloads not only makes this test flight a revenue-generating one, but also demonstrates our commitment to facilitating regular, accessible space-based scientific research.

The payloads will be placed in the spaceship cabin, where we have other test objectives planned. While we have flown passenger seats on previous flights, this will be the first time in flight where we actively recline the seats once in space, which will create extra room when Future Astronauts are floating in zero gravity. For this first test of the seat recline in a space environment, we will have instrumented test mannequins strapped in.

While on the subject of customer experience, it’s also worth noting that we’ll be testing the full suite of internal cabin cameras and our future capability to stream live footage from the spaceship down to the ground.

Since our last flight to space, we’ve refined and upgraded a few other elements on the spaceship. We’ve extensively tested these changes on the ground and in our previous two flights from Spaceport America, and we are now ready to test them on a rocket-powered flight.  We’ve made upgrades to the horizontal stabilizers (known as H-Stabs), which are the flight control surfaces on the outboard of the feather booms. We’ve also made improvements to the flight control system that commands these Hstabs to move in response to pilot inputs. We’ve already flown these improvements on our last two glide flights, and they performed well.  Together these mods will enhance the performance of the spaceship and support long-term commercial service.

We anticipate that this upcoming flight will provide some of the data for us to close out our final two verification reports required by the FAA to remove the remaining proviso in our current commercial spaceflight license.

Upon successful completion of this flight, and data review, we will proceed to the next phase of testing, where we will fly four mission specialists in the cabin to test and refine the equipment, procedures, training and overall experience.

It’s a great time to be part of Virgin Galactic, as we work together to bring the wonder of human spaceflight to the state of New Mexico for the first time this Fall – and, even more exciting – many more times in the years ahead.

 

About Virgin Galactic Holdings

 

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.  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 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.