Attendees at the AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin were treated with watching Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo take flight. On board the mothership — which will launch space tourism and science customers into space — was none other than Vigin’s founder Richard Branson. “This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Branson said after the flight. “It’s a beautiful aircraft to fly and its incredibly light carbon construction and efficient design points the way to a much brighter future for commercial aviation as well as the industrial revolution in space which I believe our entire space launch system heralds.”
Branson and Virgin Galactic also signed an agreement yesterday at the air show for an Abu Dhabi-based investment group to buy almost a third of the space tourism company. Aabar Investments received 32 percent of the company for $280 million. Virgin would like to see the WhiteKnightTwo used to launch small payloads into orbit, similar to how Orbital Sciences’ Pegasus launcher operates. The money from Aabar will go toward developing Virgin Galactic’s orbital capability, and it’s hoped the first satellite launches can take place in three years.
Sources: Technology Review, Richard Branson’s Blog