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Saudi Arabia and Virgin Announce Partnership on Spaceflight, Satellite Launch, and Space-Centric Entertainment Industry

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two. Photograph courtesy of Virgin Galactic.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia and Virgin Group (Virgin), have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a partnership under which PIF intends to invest approximately $1 billion into Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit, with an option for $480 million of future additional investment in space services.

The intention to invest was agreed by HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, and of the PIF, and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group. The strategic guidance for the partnership was provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning.

PIF and Virgin partnership creates a strong platform to enhance the role of innovative technology within the Kingdom’s blueprint for a modern, diversified economy, which is a central part of Vision 2030.

HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, said, “This partnership with Virgin Group reflects the great strides the Kingdom is making towards our vision for a diversified, knowledge-based economy. The future of Saudi Arabia is one of innovation, as showcased at this week’s Future Investment Initiative, and it’s through partnerships with organizations like Virgin Group that we will make active contributions to those sectors and technologies that are driving progress on a global scale.”

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said, “We are delighted to welcome the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as our new partners in Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit under the leadership of His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud. We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic going into space with people on board and Virgin Orbit going into orbit and placing satellites around the Earth. This investment will enable us to develop the next generation of satellite launches and accelerate our programme for point to point supersonic space travel.”

The MoU was signed by H.E. Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan, Managing Director of PIF, and Patrick McCall, Senior Managing Director of the Virgin Group, during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) taking place in Riyadh this week.

The intended investment will, subject to regulatory approval, result in PIF taking a significant stake in Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, and Virgin Orbit, alongside Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments. This will support the companies’ human spaceflight plans and accelerate Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing and operational capabilities. It will also aid the development of next generation low cost small satellite launch systems and commercial supersonic point-to-point travel capabilities; and includes the possibility to develop a space centric entertainment industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Companies and PIF will cooperate to execute on a mutually agreed roadmap for the KSA’s space industry consistent with applicable laws, including U.S. export controls.

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