Virgin Galactic seeks NASA help

NASA officials
have signed a memorandum of understanding with Virgin
Galactic to explore the potential for collaborations on the
development of space suits, heat shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket
motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of traveling five or more times
the speed of sound. Under the terms of the memorandum, NASA Ames Research Center, located in
California’s Silicon Valley, and Virgin Galactic LLC, a U.S.-based
subsidiary of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, will explore possible
collaborations in several technical areas employing capabilities and
facilities of NASA’s Ames Research Center.

“As we constantly seek to build upon the advances made by explorers who
have come before us, we now embark upon an exciting time in space
exploration history that realizes the unlimited opportunities presented
by a commercial space economy,” said Shana Dale, NASA’s deputy
administrator. “By encouraging such potential collaborations, NASA
supports the development of greater commercial collaboration and
applications that will serve to strengthen and enhance the future
benefits of space exploration for all of mankind.”

Dale is a longtime supporter of commercial space development. As the
former staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee
on Space and Aeronautics, she was instrumental in the passage of the
Commercial Space Act of 1998. This legislation encourages commercial
space development in a variety of areas, including launch vehicles, the
International Space Station and the acquisition of space and Earth
science data.

“This understanding with Virgin Galactic affords NASA an opportunity to
work with an emerging company in the commercial human space
transportation industry to support the agency’s exploration, science and
aeronautics mission goals,” said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames
Research Center. “Our location in California’s Silicon Valley provides a
dynamic research and development platform for future potential
collaborations with other such companies in support of a robust
commercial space industry.”

“We are excited to be working with NASA and look forward to future
collaborations in exploration and space travel,” said Alex Tai, vice
president of operations for Virgin Galactic.


The agreement with Virgin Galactic was negotiated through NASA’s Space
Portal, a newly formed organization in the NASA Research Park at Ames,
which seeks to engage new opportunities for NASA to promote the
development of the commercial space economy.

“This new type of private-public partnership can benefit the agency
while helping to foster a new industry,” said Dan Coughlin, NASA’s lead
for the Virgin Galactic agreement.

The memorandum of understanding will be in effect for two years and
stipulates that neither NASA nor Virgin Galactic will be required to pay
any fees or provide funds to support the areas of possible collaboration