Future astronauts of the world must have been cheering with big smiles today now that Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, hosted its annual private customer event at Mojave Air and Space Port. The event, “Your Flight DNA,” brought together the largest number of future astronauts to date, with approximately 400 customers and a total of 640 individuals in attendance.
“As Virgin Galactic progresses towards commercial flight, we periodically gather together with our wonderful family of Virgin Galactic future astronauts, not only to thank them for their commitment to the program, but to also celebrate our most recent milestones and successes,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson during the Mojave event. “With supersonic powered test flights of SpaceShipTwo well underway, a full commercial service is fast approaching. In fact, today’s event could well be the last major gathering of future astronauts before we finally start to make their dreams of space travel a reality.”
This year, Virgin Galactic focused on providing customers with a “behind the hangar doors” experience, which included updates on the recent work and program milestones that have taken place in Mojave, where Virgin Galactic flight tests and vehicle manufacturing takes place. Many of the presentations took place inside Virgin Galactic’s FAITH facility. From here, future astronauts will gather for additional presentations on medical evaluations, overall operations and the progress being made at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic 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.
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.
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