Virgin Galactic Breaks Speed of Sound in First Rocket-Powered Flight of SpaceShipTwo

  Virgin Galactic Breaks Speed of Sound in First Rocket-Powered Flight of
  SpaceShipTwo

   Sir Richard Branson witnesses vehicle-proving milestone as company sets
                        year-end goal for spaceflight

Business Wire

MOJAVE, Calif. -- April 29, 2013

Today, Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline owned by Sir
Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJC,
completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo
(SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin
Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic’s entrance into the final phase of
vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New
Mexico.

“The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any
doubt, our single most important flight test to date,” said Virgin Galactic
Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the
occasion. “For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the
system, fully integrated and in flight. Today’s supersonic success opens the
way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship’s powered flight envelope, with a
very realistic goal of full space flight by the year’s end. We saw history in
the making today and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.”

The test began at 7:02 a.m. local time when SS2 took off from Mojave Air and
Space Port mated to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic’s carrier aircraft.
Piloting SS2 were Mark Stucky, pilot, and Mike Alsbury, co-pilot, who are test
pilots for Scaled, which built SS2 for Virgin Galactic. At the WK2 controls
were Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, assisted by Clint Nichols and
Brian Maisler, co-pilot and flight test engineer, respectively, for Scaled.

Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the
flight, SS2 was released from WK2. After cross-checking data and verifying
stable control, the pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor, causing the
main oxidizer valve to open and igniters to fire within the fuel case. At this
point, SS2 was propelled forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000
feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. During this time,
SS2 went supersonic, achieving Mach 1.2.

“We partnered with Virgin Galactic several years ago with the aspiration to
transform and commercialize access to space for the broader public,” said His
Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of aabar Investments PJC. “Today’s test
is another key milestone in realizing that aspiration. Our partnership goes
from strength to strength, and is an excellent example of aabar’s desire to
participate in the development of world class technologies that are
commercially viable and strategically important, both for the company, its
shareholders, and for Abu Dhabi.”

The entire rocket-powered flight test lasted just over 10 minutes, culminating
in a smooth landing for SS2 in Mojave at approximately 8 a.m. local time.

“The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration,
good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout,” said
Virgin Galactic President & CEO George Whitesides. “The successful outcome of
this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a
handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight
to space.”

In the coming months, the Virgin Galactic and Scaled test team will expand the
spaceship’s powered flight envelope culminating in full space flight, which
the companies anticipate will take place before the end of 2013.

“I'd like to congratulate the entire team,” said President of Scaled Kevin
Mickey. “This milestone has been a long time coming and it's only through the
hard work of the team and the tremendous support of Virgin Galactic that we
have been able to witness this important milestone. We look forward to all our
upcoming tests and successes.”

For a downloadable press release and images, please go to
http://www.virgingalactic.com/extranet/.

For any additional images, please contact http://www.gettyimages.co.uk.

About Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and aabar
Investments PJC, is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. To
date, the company has accepted more than $70 million in deposits from
approximately 580 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. Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles, which will be
manufactured by Virgin Galactic in Mojave, Calif., share much of the same
basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent
scientific research payload, on suborbital space flights. The vehicles will
allow an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience with astounding views of the
planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique
microgravity platform for researchers. The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test
flight program is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial
operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

About aabar Investments PJC

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, aabar Investments PJC invests in various sectors
including infrastructure, aviation, real estate, automotive, commodities,
energy and financial services. IPIC acquired a stake in aabar in 2008 and has
since progressively increased its stake to the current level of 95%. Since
IPIC’s initial investment, aabar has made numerous investments including
stakes in Daimler AG, Falcon Private Bank Ltd., Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix
Limited, UniCredit S.p.A., Galactic Ventures LLC, XOJET, Inc., Glencore
International plc and a portfolio of real estate projects.

Contact:

Media Contacts
Griffin Communications Group
Jeff Carr, (832) 864-7224; (281) 381-5427 cell
VirginGalactic@GriffinCG.com
or
Deanna Wilke, (832) 864-7227; (281) 881-2981 cell
VirginGalactic@GriffinCG.com
 
Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.