SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Adine Deford, Cynthia Dunlop, Harry Trott, Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva

News Feed Item

Q&A with George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- All things considered, it's not surprising that George Whitesides is president and CEO of Virgin Galactic. Earlier in his career, he served as vice president of marketing for private space-tourism company Zero Gravity before becoming executive director at the National Space Society—and then NASA's chief of staff.  And when Virgin Galactic was launched in 2004, Whitesides immediately contacted Virgin headquarters to tell them he wanted to buy a ticket—making him one of their first customers. Today, in addition to leading Virgin Galactic, he's also a fellow at the U.K.'s Royal Aeronautical Society and sits on the board of Virgin Unite USA. And of course, he's a licensed pilot, although he jokingly says "You wouldn't want me piloting a spaceship!"

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130226/CG66856)

We'll take his word for it, but at the helm of Virgin Galactic, Whitesides anticipates taking the company's first commercial passengers into space as soon as a year from now. Calling from company headquarters in the Mojave, Whitesides kindly took time to discuss various high-flying subjects, including Virgin Galactic's new partnership with XOJET.

XOJET: How did Virgin Galactic evolve?

GW: The key thing is that Richard (Branson) has always been inspired by aviation and aerospace and pushing the ball forward in space. I think the issue was that he never found the right investment to make until the X Prize flights in 2004. That's when he really saw something and thought, "This is actually something we can take and progress and turn into a real business."

XOJET: What are some of the biggest challenges in creating a commercial space venture?

GW: The biggest challenge is making sure that we build a vehicle that is as safe as can be and meets our customers' expectations in terms of experience. So we've been working for several years now, building SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. We've essentially designed a system that is meant to be as fail-safe as possible. That is to say, we keep making great safety improvements that will make it the safest manned space ship ever built.

XOJET: When will the first flight happen?

GW: We've been flying both vehicles for several years now. We've had about a hundred test flights on the carrier aircraft and over 40 flights on the spaceship. Our first powered flight will be very soon, and I won't give a specific date, but our hope is to get into space approximately by the end of this year. That will be a test flight, so the first commercial space flights should come at the end of this year or at the beginning of 2014. That's what we're targeting.

XOJET: How many space aircraft do you have today, and how will your fleet grow?

GW: We essentially have one pair of vehicles—the ones we're flying now. Then we have the second pair, basically copies of the first pair, which are being produced now in Mojave. Our aspiration is to build five spaceships and a couple more carrier aircraft; we think that's a good number with which to scale up the business.

XOJET: How would you characterize Virgin Galactic astronauts?

GW: In general, these are people who have had success in their life. A lot of them are entrepreneurs; a lot of them are pilots. We have folks of all different ages and lots of women, as well as young folks and elderly—it's a pretty amazing range of people.

XOJET: What motivates them to want to go into space?

GW:  The anticipation of doing something that very few people have done. They get to be part of a truly historic moment in space history, a time when if you buy a ticket, you can be one of the first people to go into space, which is amazing. Another thing is being part of that community of astronauts, which is a remarkable group of people. People find a lot of value in that, just on its own.

XOJET: What are some of the interesting events you've done for future astronauts?

GW: What we try to do is to enable our customers to meet each other and come together around bigger milestone events for our company. So, for example, one of the events we did was for the rollout for the spaceship. That was a terrific event with several governors and various other folks. We've also had trips to Richard's properties including Necker Island and the South African game reserve, Ulusaba. Through it all, what we're trying to do is share the magic of the overall experience and to build that community of folks, because it's a remarkable group of people.

XOJET: Share your thoughts about the XOJET/ Virgin Galactic Concierge Access partnership.

GW: This is something we're very excited about, and I think it's going to be extremely important as we get closer to commercial operation. XOJET is a great partner; obviously a very similar group of people use both services. So it's a win-win relationship for our customers, and whether they're flying XOJET straight to our Spaceport America in New Mexico or to other destinations, I think it's a relationship that will be increasingly beneficial as we lead up to their Virgin Galactic flight.

Media Contact: Amanda Schuon XOJET, 310-550-7200, [email protected]

News distributed by PR Newswire iReach: https://ireach.prnewswire.com

SOURCE XOJET

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
15th Cloud Expo, which took place Nov. 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, expanded the conference content of @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit to include two developer events. IBM held a Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5 and ElasticBox held a Hackathon on November 6. Both events took place on the expo floor. The Bluemix Developer Playground, for developers of all levels, highlighted the ease of use of Bluemix, its services and functionalit...
"We help companies that are using a lot of Software as a Service. We help companies manage and gain visibility into what people are using inside the company and decide to secure them or use standards to lock down or to embrace the adoption of SaaS inside the company," explained Scott Kriz, Co-founder and CEO of Bitium, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Some developers believe that monitoring is a function of the operations team. Some operations teams firmly believe that monitoring the systems they maintain is sufficient to run the business successfully. Most of them are wrong. The complexity of today's applications have gone far and beyond the capabilities of "traditional" system-level monitoring tools and approaches and requires much broader knowledge of business and applications as a whole. The goal of DevOps is to connect all aspects of app...
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
Want to enable self-service provisioning of application environments in minutes that mirror production? Can you automatically provide rich data with code-level detail back to the developers when issues occur in production? In his session at DevOps Summit, David Tesar, Microsoft Technical Evangelist on Microsoft Azure and DevOps, will discuss how to accomplish this and more utilizing technologies such as Microsoft Azure, Visual Studio online, and Application Insights in this demo-heavy session.
When an enterprise builds a hybrid IaaS cloud connecting its data center to one or more public clouds, security is often a major topic along with the other challenges involved. Security is closely intertwined with the networking choices made for the hybrid cloud. Traditional networking approaches for building a hybrid cloud try to kludge together the enterprise infrastructure with the public cloud. Consequently this approach requires risky, deep "surgery" including changes to firewalls, subnets...
DevOps is all about agility. However, you don't want to be on a high-speed bus to nowhere. The right DevOps approach controls velocity with a tight feedback loop that not only consists of operational data but also incorporates business context. With a business context in the decision making, the right business priorities are incorporated, which results in a higher value creation. In his session at DevOps Summit, Todd Rader, Solutions Architect at AppDynamics, discussed key monitoring techniques...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water,...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, a...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happe...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series dat...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and asse...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!