Richard Branson And Virgin Galactic: Space – A New Frontier

Emeric Brard
on 31 October 2019

CEBIT 2019 exhibition at Sydney’s ICC Exhibition Centre featured an outstanding keynote speech on Space: A new frontier by Commercial Director of Virgin Atlantic’s Stephen Attenborough.

Space is ‘Virgin’ Territory

Yes, the wordplay in the title is intentional, explains Stephen, because space is something that continues to amaze us and yet also remains something that we know very little about.

We’ve all heard about the moon landing of 1969, a pinnacle moment in human history, one that convinced people of that epoch that they’d soon be flying to the moon on holiday – but it wasn’t to be.

space, moon landing
Image credit: KGTV

Everybody wants to do this…nobody can” says Commercial Director of Virgin Atlantic’s Stephen Attenborough.

Until now, of course. Richard Branson’s expansion from a record label to an airline was a risky move, in fact 90% of UK flyers didn’t feel comfortable flying on their airline, to which Branson simply responded “If ten per cent are willing to fly, then I better get two planes!”. He was ambitious, and he got it done. Virgin is now one of the most successful airlines in the world.

Now, he wants to take it a step further and literally fly higher than ever before. Branson calls these kind of moments a ‘screw it, let’s do it’ moment. Stephen explained how this will work.

TOGETHER, WE OPEN SPACE TO CHANGE THE WORLD FOR GOOD. He had written in bold on his slide.

But what does this mean?

Virgin, space
Space Ship One. Image credit: The Verge

It all starts in 2003 with the Space Ship One. This was the first time that the new “shuttle cock” re-entry system was put to the test. This meant basing the ship’s design on the shuttle cock, a heavy front, and a “feathered rear” so as to let gravity do all the work in terms of repositioning the ship upon re-entry into the atmosphere. The aim? To bring people up to space and back safely without a rocket ship.

It worked.

With the help of Burt Rutan, the now retired aerospace engineer, they designed the VMS Eve (the mothership), named after Branson’s mother – because you have to name something after your mother otherwise she gets angry – and the VSS Unity.

With these two successful models, they could now start providing customers with commercial space flights.

“If you build me a spaceport, I’ll bring you a spaceline!” – which is exactly what happened.

There is currently a spaceport in the middle of the Mojave desert in the US where “private astronauts” will meet to be trained, given custom under armour space suits, and be launched out of the atmosphere.

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Stephen Attenborough certainly announced some exciting news, and even talked of the possibility of, sometime in the near future, cutting down long flight times like that of London to Sydney to just two hours! Thanks to new flight technology, this could all be possible, and what’s even better is that it would all be done with a much smaller environmental footprint.

Welcome to the second space age…

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