Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two, Credit: Wikimedia
Saudi Arabia's sovereign investment fund plans on investing over $1 billion in Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit with an option to pile on $480 million more.
“This partnership with Virgin Group reflects the great strides the kingdom is making towards our vision for a diversified, knowledge-based economy,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud said in the statement. “We will make active contributions to those sectors and technologies that are driving progress on a global scale.”
Saudi Arabia’s quest to decrease its dependence on oil is welcome news for Richard Branson’s space ventures. After a couple of highly publicized fatal accidents and a multitude of production delays, Virgin Galactic is set to receive FAA approval to carry passengers into space, contingent on Virgin’s SpaceShip Two successfully completing all safety tests. According to a statement put out by Branson, Virgin Galactic is months away from launching tourists into space.
Branson's smallsat air launch venture, Virgin Orbit, plans on conducting the inaugural launch of the LauncherOne rocket from a former Virgin Atlantic 747-400 in the first half of 2018. Virgin Orbit has already signed on three customers: OneWeb, NASA, and Planet.
Richard Branson has also expressed interest in developing suborbital point-to-point rocket travel with the Virgin Galactic platform. In September, Musk teased the same idea with the announcement of SpaceX’s next generation launch vehicle the BFR.
With an influx in cash from Saudi Arabia, Branson's Virgin space ventures are ready to enter the satellite launch market, the space tourism industry, and maybe even develop point-to-point suborbital rocket travel.
a d v e r t i s e m e n t