and Rutan Form "The Spaceship Company"
To Jointly Manufacture and Market Spaceships for the
Sub-Orbital Personal Spaceflight Industry
27th July 2005:
Today, Sir Richard Branson (Founder, Virgin
Group of Companies) and Burt Rutan (President, Scaled
Composites) announced their signing of an agreement to form a new
aerospace production company to build a fleet of commercial sub-orbital
spaceships and launch aircraft. The new company will own the designs of
the new SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and White Knight Two (WK2) launch systems that
are now in development at Scaled Composites. The SS2/WK2 system will use
the 'Care-free reentry' and the 'cantilevered-hybrid' rocket motor technology
developed for the Ansari X prize-winning SpaceShipOne (SS1), and will
license that technology from Paul Allen's Mojave Aerospace company. The
Spaceship Company will manufacture the new launch aircraft, spaceships
and support equipment and market them to spaceline operators, including
the launch customer, Virgin Galactic.
The Spaceship Company will be jointly owned by Virgin and Scaled, and
will contract Scaled for the research, development, testing and certification
of SS2/WK2. Burt Rutan will head up the technical development team.
Burt Rutan commented: "I am very excited to have agreed the terms on which
we can now move forward to develop the world's-first commercial, passenger-carrying
Spaceships. This will truly herald an era of personal spaceflight first
described by the visionary science fiction writers of the 1940's and 1950's.
Richard and I share a vision that commercially-viable and safe space tourism
will provide the foundation for the human colonization of space. I am
looking forward, (actually looking way up!) to working together with Richard
on this next exciting phase."
Sir Richard Branson added: "I couldn't be more delighted to announce the
formation of this joint venture at the biggest private aviation event
in the world. Like many millions of people growing up in the Sixties who
witnessed the wonder of man walking on the moon - I dreamt that one day
I too would make that 'one small step…'! Unfortunately though, over the
last three decades, many people gave up hope - luckily people like Burt
Rutan never did. His vision has allowed people, like me, to dream again.
But even I never dreamed as boy, that one day, I would form, with Burt,
the company which will build the world's first commercial passenger spacecraft!"
In 2001, Paul Allen contracted Scaled Composites for the research and
development of the SS1 system, to fulfill his vision of flying the world's
first privately-developed, reusable space vehicle. Last year on June 21st,
when Mike Melvill flew SS1 above 100 km altitude, Mr Allen forever dispelled
the myth that manned space flight was the sole remit of huge Government
programs. Then, on September 27th, Virgin announced the launch of Virgin
Galactic, the world's first commercial space tourism operator and a new
era in space travel was born. Virgin Galactic was a sponsor for the two
successful X-prize flights completed on October 4th. SpaceShipOne, the
historic, record breaking spacecraft, will be installed this fall in the
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery
in Washington D C.
The launch customer for this new joint venture between Virgin Group and
Scaled Composites will be Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson's commercial
space tourism venture. Virgin Galactic has placed orders for five SS2's
and two WK2's, with options on further systems, thus securing the exclusive
use of the systems for the initial 18 months of commercial passenger operations.
The Spaceship Company plans to make spaceflight affordable for the masses
and to demonstrate the commercial viability of manned space exploration.
We are dedicated to reaching that goal with the first generation of spaceship
systems developed for routine, scheduled flight operations. Those systems
will be environmentally friendly and will include new solutions to optimize
both safety and the passenger experience. We expect that as the flight
hardware matures, and is operated by competing spaceline companies, many
thousands of people will experience the wonder of leaving the earth's
atmosphere each year.
Virgin, a leading branded venture capital organization, is one of the
world's most recognized and respected brands. Conceived in 1970 by Sir
Richard Branson, the Virgin Group has gone on to grow very successful
businesses in sectors ranging from mobile telephony, to transportation,
travel, financial services, leisure, music, holidays, publishing and retailing.
Virgin has created more than 200 companies worldwide, employing approximately
35,000 people, in 29 countries. Revenues around the world in 2003 exceeded
£4.5 billion (US$7.9 billion).
About Virgin Galactic:
The Virgin Galactic
name was first registered and trade mark protection applied for in the
mid 1990s. As the world's-first commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic
will be heavily investing to setup a world-class commercial flight operation
and to build the ground infrastructure required to create the best possible
sub-orbital spaceflight experience for its passengers.