Virgin Galactic appoints new chief as it prepares for commercial service

Virgin Galactic has announced the appointment of a new chief executive in preparation for its commercial space flight service.

Sir Richard Branson’s company has appointed Michael Colglazier, who will join the board of directors from Monday.

The move comes as the company progresses through its test flight programme and prepares for commercial service.

Mr Colglazier joins Virgin Galactic following a three-decade career at the Walt Disney Company, with his most recent role as president and managing director of Disney Parks International.

He said: “I am thrilled to join the talented team at Virgin Galactic at this inflection point in the company’s journey.”

George Whitesides, who was appointed as Virgin Galactic’s first chief executive in 2010 after serving as chief of staff at Nasa, will assume the role of chief space officer.

The company said he will be focused on developing future business opportunities, including point-to-point hypersonic travel and orbital space travel.

Mr Whitesides said: “I look forward to supporting Michael as the company realises Richard Branson’s vision to share the experience of space flight with people around the world, now turning my focus to building the next generation of aerospace vehicles and experiences.”

Farnborough International Airshow
Sir Richard Branson poses on his Virgin Galactic spacecraft (Steve Parsons/PA)

Sir Richard agreed in May to sell shares worth around 500 million US dollars (£405 million) in Virgin Galactic to raise funds for his struggling airline and leisure businesses.

On May 1, Virgin Galactic’s spaceship VSS Unity landed in the New Mexico desert after its first glide flight from Spaceport America as the company moves towards commercial operations.

More than 600 customers from around the world have put down firm deposits for flights, with initial seats being sold at 250,000 dollars.

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