MOJAVE, Calif. – Today, Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the second rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In addition to achieving the highest altitude and greatest speed to date, the test flight demonstrated the vehicle’s full technical mission profile in a single flight for the first time, including a high altitude deployment of the unique wing “feathering” re-entry mechanism. All of the test objectives were successfully completed.
At approximately 8 a.m. local time from the Mojave Air and Space Port, the company’s WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft took off carrying SS2 to an altitude of 46,000 feet. Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay was at the WK2 controls, assisted by Scaled Composites (Scaled) co-pilot Mike Alsbury and The Spaceship Company Flight Test Engineer Scott Glaser. Upon release from WK2, SS2 pilots Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols, both of Scaled, ignited the rocket motor for the planned 20-second burn propelling the spaceship to 69,000 feet. During this time, SS2 achieved a maximum speed of Mach 1.43.SS2 landed in Mojave at 9:25 a.m. local time completing the flight test with the pilots reporting a flawless flight.
Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. To date, the company has accepted nearly $80 million in deposits from approximately 630 individuals, which is approximately 10% more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space. The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic’s vehicle fleet by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the $10 million Ansari X Prize as the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles, which will be manufactured by The Spaceship Company in Mojave, Calif., share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload, on suborbital space flights. The vehicles will allow an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience with astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers. The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test flight program is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, aabar Investments PJS (aabar) invests in various sectors including infrastructure, aviation, real estate, automotive, commodities, energy and financial services. International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) acquired a stake in aabar in 2008 and has progressively increased its stake to over 95% since then. Following IPIC’s initial investment, aabar has made numerous investments including stakes in Falcon Private Bank Ltd., UniCredit S.p.A., RHB Bank Malaysia, Galactic Ventures LLC (Virgin Galactic), XOJET Inc., Glencore Xstrata plc., Arabtec Construction PJSC and a portfolio of real estate projects. IPIC, established in 1984 and wholly owned by the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, invests globally in energy and energy related sectors and undertakes strategic projects on behalf of the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. IPIC’s portfolio currently consists of over 15 investments throughout the hydrocarbon value chain spanning five continents. Specific investments include: Compañía Española de Petróleos (CEPSA), NOVA Chemicals Corporation (NOVA), Borealis AG (Borealis) aabar.