27 April 2020

Virgin Galactic Signs Space Act Agreement with NASA in the Fight Against COVID-19

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During the current global crisis, we believe that the space industry has a responsibility to share expertise, knowledge, resources, and ingenuity to aid in the fight against COVID-19. That’s why, today, we are proud to share that Virgin Galactic is meeting this responsibility head-on through a Space Act Agreement with NASA.

This Space Act Agreement outlines Virgin Galactic’s commitment to developing innovative solutions to the problems facing healthcare workers on the frontlines. This is our way of ensuring that the best and brightest at Virgin Galactic can support their local communities during this challenging time and provide life-saving solutions for those suffering from COVID-19.

“The work NASA employees are doing in California is one of several examples of how the agency is contributing to the whole-of-government response to coronavirus,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “By channeling the unique skillset of our workforce and engaging private and public partners, we can make a difference in communities such as the Antelope Valley and nationwide.

”I am incredibly proud of our employees at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) for the enormous push last week in the development and testing of the PPB Hood – a device designed to support those admitted with COVID-19 with portable oxygen-rich pressure chambers, reducing the subsequent need for ventilator intubation. The team overcame shipping delays and product challenges to execute a carefully choreographed fabrication process, complete with exhaust fitting, liner leak check and repair, door installation, strap fastening, inspection, cleaning, labeling, and packaging. The result of this is an innovative patient care tool that can help make a difference for those in need. Thanks to the dedication, resilience, and creativity of this group, we are on track to produce 400 PPB Hoods at a specially constructed assembly line at our Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar (FAITH) in Mojave.

The assembly line itself is a landmark effort, made up of twelve workstations, each hosting a step in the hood fabrication process, and manned by a member of a 20-strong volunteer team made up of NASA Armstrong and TSC employees. This team was supported by a further group of volunteers working behind the scenes to support design, materials procurement, and tool sourcing. These products will be made available to the Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California – where we were able to conduct pressure testing on 5 prototype hoods, and secure initial authorization for production of the full batch of 400 units of the model approved by doctors. Separately, we’re also working on conducting a further test program with Bartlett Community Hospital in Juneau, Alaska.

Virgin Galactic, together with TSC, NASA, and the Antelope Valley Hospital team, has also been working on a separate project to develop and build negative pressure enclosures – specialist equipment that covers a patient on a gurney or hospital bed. These enclosures are designed to protect medical staff by containing infected air and filtering it so that it does not contaminate the wider room environment. Virgin Galactic, together with TSC, NASA, and the Antelope Valley Hospital team, has also been working on a separate project to develop and build negative pressure enclosures – specialist equipment that covers a patient on a gurney or hospital bed. These enclosures are designed to protect medical staff by containing infected air and filtering it so that it does not contaminate the wider room environment. The team tested the first units, rapidly developed over the past week, with positive results – and are currently implementing some minor modifications to the units and will be reviewing options for FDA authorization and wider testing.

Dr. Daniel Burgin Khodabakhsh, MD, Antelope Valley Hospital said: “The innovative hoods and negative pressure enclosures that are being built by this aerospace collaboration will save lives and keep healthcare works from getting sick in the fight against Covid-19.  We in the AV Hospital Emergency Room are grateful and have also been inspired as we have worked on the development of equipment that can help others across the world.”

Virgin Galactic is proud to be playing an active role in the Antelope Valley COVID-19 Task Force alongside NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, Antelope Valley College, The Spaceship Company, and the City of Lancaster, CA. Early in the outbreak, this task force came together with a shared mission to develop the solutions needed to protect healthcare workers and save lives. With daily meetings and rigorous design and production efforts, the Antelope Valley COVID-19 Task Force is bringing together our community in the spirit of innovation to provide much-needed assistance.

Our work is far from over – the Space Act Agreement announced today outlines a series of significant milestones over the next several weeks. These milestones mark Virgin Galactic’s and The Spaceship Company’s next steps towards manufacturing, testing, and perfecting the patient hoods. I am enormously proud of the contributions of our team, whose dedication in the face of adversity inspires me greatly. With this Space Act Agreement, we chart our next steps forward as a company and as proud members of a global community, committed to doing our best when times are at their hardest. I am confident that we will emerge from this global health crisis stronger and better prepared than ever to set our sights on new horizons and continue in the fulfillment of Virgin Galactic’s mission – overcoming challenges, exploring the unknown, and using space for good.

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.