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Saudi Crown Prince Visits Virgin Galactic in California

Sir Richard Branson (far left) and HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (second left), at the Virgin Galactic facilities at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, United States. Photograph courtesy of STARTRAKS.

The Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, visited the facilities of Virgin Galactic at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on 2 April 2018.

The Crown Prince and his delegation, which included the Saudi ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, were hosted by Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group, and by George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are significant investors in Virgin Galactic and its sister company Virgin Orbit, and while at the Mojave Air and Space Port the Saudi Crown Prince inspected Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, and received briefings on the progress Virgin Galactic is making in getting SpaceShipTwo ready for its inaugural suborbital flight with fare paying passengers.

In October 2017 it was announced that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) would make a U.S.$1 billion investment into Virgin Galactic, Virgin’s The Spaceship Company, and Virgin Orbit, with an option for an additional U.S.$480 million in related space services. That agreement was signed in Saudi Arabia by Sir Richard Branson and the Crown Prince, who at the time said of the investment:

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.

This investments means that PIF is taking a significant stake in Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, and Virgin Orbit, along with the Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments. The investment  will support Virgin’s human spaceflight plans and accelerate Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing and operational capabilities. It also assists the development of next generation low-cost small satellite launch systems and commercial supersonic point-to-point travel capabilities. It also includes the potential to develop a space-centric entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia.

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