03 August 2020

Virgin Galactic Unveils Mach 3 Aircraft Design for High Speed Travel, and Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Rolls-Royce

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Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc, a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, which includes its manufacturer of advanced air and space vehicles, The Spaceship Company (“TSC”), announced today the first stage design scope for the build of its high speed aircraft design, and the signing of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Rolls-Royce to collaborate in designing and developing engine propulsion technology for high speed commercial aircraft. This follows the successful completion of its Mission Concept Review (“MCR”) program milestone and authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation to work with Virgin Galactic to outline a certification framework.  This marks an exciting step forward in Virgin Galactic’s development of a new generation of high speed aircraft, in partnership with industry and government leaders, with a focus on customer experience and environmental sustainability.

Rolls-Royce is a leader in the cutting-edge technologies that deliver clean, safe and competitive solutions to the planet’s vital power needs. Rolls-Royce has a proven record of delivering high Mach propulsion, powering the only civil-certified commercial aircraft (Concorde) capable of supersonic flight.

George Whitesides, Chief Space Officer, Virgin Galactic said, “We are excited to complete the Mission Concept Review and unveil this initial design concept of a high speed aircraft, which we envision as blending safe and reliable commercial travel with an unrivalled customer experience. We are pleased to collaborate with the innovative team at Rolls-Royce as we strive to develop sustainable, cutting-edge propulsion systems for the aircraft, and we are pleased to be working with the FAA to ensure our designs can make a practical impact from the start. We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high speed travel.”

“We are excited to partner with Virgin Galactic and TSC to explore the future of sustainable high speed flight,” said Rolls-Royce North America Chairman & CEO Tom Bell. “Rolls-Royce brings a unique history in high speed propulsion, going back to the Concorde, and offers world-class technical capabilities to develop and field the advanced propulsion systems needed to power commercially available high-Mach travel.”

The Mission Concept Review, which included representatives from NASA, is an important program milestone at which the Virgin Galactic high speed team confirmed that, based on the research and analysis work completed, its design concept can meet the high-level requirements and objectives of the mission. Previously, NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with Virgin Galactic to collaborate on high speed technologies.

The basic parameters of the initial high speed aircraft design include a targeted Mach 3 certified delta-wing aircraft that would have capacity for 9 to 19 people at an altitude above 60,000 feet and would also be able to incorporate custom cabin layouts to address customer needs, including Business or First Class seating arrangements. The aircraft design also aims to help lead the way toward use of state-of-the-art sustainable aviation fuel. Baselining sustainable technologies and techniques into the aircraft design early on is expected to also act as a catalyst to adoption in the rest of the aviation community. 

The MCR concluded that the team can progress to the next phase of design, consisting of defining specific system architectures and configurations, and determining which materials to use in the design and manufacturing of the aircraft.  The team will also work to address key challenges in thermal management, maintenance, noise, emissions, and economics that routine high speed commercial flights would entail.

The design philosophy of the aircraft is geared around making high speed travel practical, sustainable, safe, and reliable, while making customer experience a top priority. Virgin Galactic is designing the aircraft for a range of operational scenarios, including service for passengers on long-distance commercial aviation routes. The aircraft would take off and land like any other passenger aircraft and be expected to integrate into existing airport infrastructure and international airspace around the world.

Virgin Galactic is working closely with international regulatory communities to ensure compliance with safety and environmental standards. Last week the FAA’s Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation reviewed the project direction and authorized FAA resources to work with the Virgin Galactic team to begin to outline a certification framework during the pre-project guidance phase. Virgin Galactic believes that working together with regulators and industry leaders such as Rolls Royce and Boeing will support the mission to broaden and transform global travel technologies, with a focus on customer experience. 

About Virgin GalacticVirgin Galactic 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 StatementsThis 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 design and development of commercial aircraft for high-speed travel. 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. 

About Rolls-Royce Holdings plc1.Rolls-Royce pioneers cutting-edge technologies that deliver clean, safe and competitive solutions to meet our planet’s vital power needs.2.Rolls-Royce aims to become net zero carbon in its operations by 2030 and, more fundamentally, set an ambition to play a leading role in enabling the sectors in which we operate to reach net zero carbon by 2050 through the development of new products and technologies.3.Rolls-Royce has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces, 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.4. In 2019, Rolls-Royce invested $1.81 billion on research and development. We also support a global network of 29 University Technology Centers – including Purdue University, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia in the U.S. – which position Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research.

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.