NASA and Virgin Galactic subsidiary The Spaceship Company will “take advantage of new tools, techniques, and technologies developed over the last 50 years and to explore potential new solutions for the commercial aviation industry,” says Dr. James Kenyon, Director of the NASA Aeronautics Advanced Air Vehicles Program.
The age of high-speed vehicles for commercial aviation is coming but it takes a lot of money to make it real. NASA’s expertise in engineering and flight testing can’t be competed against, so it would be better to take advantage of it. Although the declared reasons have a higher meaning, the financial reasons can’t be hidden.
In the last quarter of 2019, Virgin Galactic reported a $73-million loss. Then, in the first quarter of 2020, it reported another loss of $60-million. The program initiated in February 2020 didn’t work out.
Virgin Galactic teamed up with NASA
Virgin Galactic had hoped that reservations for its first suborbital flights would attract some funding from the interested party. The reservations were US$1,000 deposits, completely refundable, but only 400 demands were registered.
The collaboration will “enable the progression of new technical steps that will improve US competitiveness,” says George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic Holdings. At the same time, “we see this as an area with tremendous growth potential that we will continue to invest in, alongside our commercial spaceflight operation,” added Whitesides.
Looking at the history of Virgin Galactic, and the long line of delays, this collaboration was needed for a long time. In 2010 Aabar Investments group acquired a 31.8% stake in Virgin Galactic and exclusive regional rights for an investment of US$280 million, followed by another US$100 million investment in 2011, raising the Aabar Investments group’s equity share to 37.8%.
Also, in 2020, Virgin Galactic’s founder, Richard Branson, transferred part of his US$1.1bn stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings to the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. He lives there since 2006.
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