Virgin Galactic eyeing tie-ups with Abu Dhabi companies

DUBAI - Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson’s venture that plans to launch commercial space flights, is interested in forming partnerships in Abu Dhabi as the emirate builds itself into a global aerospace hub.

By (Bloomberg)

Published: Mon 27 Feb 2012, 10:33 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 11:19 AM

Virgin Galactic, 37.8 per cent-owned by the Abu Dhabi government’s Aabar Investments wealth fund, wants “collaborations in operations or future technology or even education” with companies in the emirate, chief executive George Whitesides said in an interview.

Project costs to date amount to $200 million, while about 500 people have signed up for space flights at $200,000 a ticket, giving the company potential revenue of $100 million, Whitesides said in the interview from Virgin Galactic’s headquarters in Las Cruces, New Mexico, adding that the majority of buyers paid the full amount.

Abu Dhabi plans to spend $500 billion on industry, tourism and culture through 2030 to reduce reliance on petroleum. Among the projects is a business jet that state-owned Mubadala Aerospace, a maker of aircraft parts, plans to build before the end of the decade.

The emirate is “going about it in a really smart way” to develop an aerospace industry, by manufacturing composite materials and working with partners such as Lockheed-Martin, Whitesides said.

Virgin Galactic may make “a number of announcements” about joint projects during the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi in April, Whitesides said, declining to specify potential partners. The conference will also provide a chance for Whitesides to sign up more space-flight passengers from the Arabian Gulf, he said. Customers from the region currently number almost 10, he said in a recent interview.

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