15 November 2019

Virgin Galactic Kicks Off Astronaut Readiness Program


irgin Galactic has kicked off its Astronaut Readiness Program – the process of preparing Future Astronaut customers for their flights to space. As the first and only private company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, we are now finalizing all elements of the customer experience, including the recently unveiled customer spacesuits, created in partnership with Under Armour, and the interior of our Gateway to Space headquarters at Spaceport America. The next phase in this process is to ensure that Future Astronauts are optimally prepared to fly to space.

The Astronaut Readiness Program launched this week at the Under Armour Global HQ in Baltimore where we were joined by Future Astronauts who will be among the first to fly with Virgin Galactic. Guided and instructed by some of our key team members, they carried out a number of flight preparation activities. Through completing this unique program they are helping us to tailor and perfect the program for those who follow.

Our spacewear partner, Under Armour, hosted this gathering at its extensive, high-tech campus – an ideal location for the variety of different activities.

Perhaps the most exciting exercise for many Future Astronauts was being fitted for their personal, spaceflight garments.  These are tailored to each Future Astronaut and will remain theirs to keep post-flight. We are carrying out the fittings now, so that perfectly tailored training suits and spacesuits will be ready and waiting for our Future Astronauts as they arrive at Spaceport America for final flight preparation and spaceflight.

As part of the Readiness Program, in sessions led by Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, and Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay, we shared more detailed information with Future Astronauts about what to expect from preparation time at Spaceport America and from the spaceflight itself. Both Beth and Dave flew to space in February this year, so were able to provide exciting insights based on actual experience.

Health and fitness are important components of the spaceflight and a part of our absolute commitment to safety. Virgin Galactic is proud to be opening space to more people than ever before and while our Future Astronauts will not need to meet the incredibly rigorous levels of fitness required of government space agency astronauts, our in-house Medical Team conducted specially designed Medical Consultations with each Future Astronaut as part of the week’s program.

Alongside those consultations, the Under Armour team led sessions on mobility and nutrition. Paul Winsper, Vice President of Athlete Performance at Under Armour, is ideally placed to provide this guidance as it draws on the relevant elements of training programs he provides for elite Under Armour athlete ambassadors; helping them to perform to a level which unlocks their true potential. Our Future Astronauts left the session with a tailored performance program, which along with medical consultation results, will aim to use health and fitness as a tool to optimize the spaceflight experience.

George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic, said:

‘’Introducing our Astronaut Readiness Program to our first customers marks an exciting point in our journey as we move closer to the start of commercial service. It is an important step in the process to ensure that our customers are prepared and equipped with the knowledge and training that will help ensure that they savour every second of their spaceflight which we hope will go beyond expectations. My introduction to Virgin Galactic was as a customer,  so I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of involving Future Astronauts as we prepare each individual for the trip of a lifetime.’’Virgin Galactic has more than 600 Future Astronauts from 60 countries – all signed up to fly on SpaceShipTwo. We have been a customer-focused business from the start and one of the many benefits of this early customer community has been its assistance in shaping the customer journey.We will now be using the feedback from this week in Baltimore to build on that model. We discussed with our Future Astronauts how the training and the community can be best shaped for those waiting to fly and for those who have flown. Spaceflight has profound and transformative qualities and we want to provide a platform which will allow our Future Astronauts to share their new perspectives with the world and their local communities, thereby inspiring others.

Clare Pelly, Head of The Astronaut Office, said:

‘’As we kick off the program which will prepare Future Astronauts for a transformational spaceflight experience, we once again draw on the support from our unique, pioneering community. In doing so, we can ensure that each journey with Virgin Galactic is as good and relevant as it possibly can be; not only before, but during and after the incredible, personal experience of spaceflight. ‘’




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.