3 mins read 30 Oct 2019

CEBIT 2019: Virgin Galactic Opening Access To Space

Virgin Galactic is on track to be the world’s first successful space tourism company – and 40 Australian’s have signed up for the adventure of a lifetime.

VSS Unity on its third powered flight. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Australian finance, digital, business and technology industry representatives at the 2019 CEBIT Australia event were presented with a rare opportunity to hear a keynote speech from the Commercial Director of Virgin Galactic, Mr Stephen Attenborough – who provided an overview of the commercial space tourism company’s goals of opening access to space for the benefit of life on Earth.

Stephen was invited by Virgin CEO Richard Branson to join Virgin Galactic as the company's first full-time employee in 2004 to put in place the commercial foundations of the business and to create a new market for private space travel. He now leads the company’s commercial activities, covering brand management, sales, marketing and communications, customer relations, education, and outreach, as well as partnerships for the human spaceflight business.

Mr. Attenborough highlighted during his keynote speech how access to space is transformative – and the key to that transformation is the re-usability of rockets to get to and from space.

“Without the reusability of space transportation, it would be like flying a 747 from London to New York and then dumping the aircraft in the Hudson river and using a new one to return,” said Mr Attenborough, highlighting the work of not just Virgin Galactic but other US-based space disrupting organisations such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.

Mr. Attenborough then showcased the journey Virgin Galactic has been on from their very early days through to the this week’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange – becoming the first space tourism company listed on any global market.

“The ticker for the listing is SPCE – we weren’t allowed to have 5 letters, so we dropped the ‘A’ from the word space,” he said.

Virgin Galactic’s unique proposal to carry commercial passengers into sub-orbital flights received extraordinary early adoption. When the company first started, they asked a global audience to sign up for the program with a USD$200,000 cheque – the price to fly aboard the Virgin Galactic Spaceship and earn astronaut wings.

600 people from across 60 countries signed up within the first proposal period, raising enough funding for Virgin Galactic to continue its operations and grow its business.

Of the 600 passengers that signed up, 40 Australians have already registered and are now awaiting the program to open post an extensive testing and risk mitigation period.

In the crowd was Mr. Luke Hepworth, an Australian enthusiast who has signed up for and is eagerly awaiting the sub-orbital flight provided by the space tourism company.

Mr. Attenborough also described Virgin Galactic’s ambition in establishing spaceports all around the world, including one in Australia – where passengers can take off in one country and land in another.

Mr. Attenborough was introduced to the stage by Dr. Paul Scully-Power, Australian’s first astronaut who flew aboard the 13th Space Shuttle mission in October 1984. During his flight on STS-41-G Challenger as the Payload Specialist and studied oceanic spiral eddies from his position aboard the shuttle in Low-Earth orbit.