Space veteran Boeing has announced plans to join forces with relative newcomer Virgin Galactic in a $US20 million investment aimed at developing new forms of space and high-speed air travel.
The companies say they will work together “to broaden commercial space access and transform travel technologies”.
Galactic was founded by the Virgin Group in 2004 as a space tourism enterprise but founder Richard Branson has broadened its scope to look at hypersonic travel that could cross the Atlantic in a few hours.
“This is the beginning of an important collaboration for the future of air and space travel, which are the natural next steps for our human spaceflight program,” Branson said in the announcement. “Virgin Galactic and Boeing share a vision of opening access to the world and space, to more people, in safe and environmentally responsible ways.”
Galactic has yet to carry a paying customer despite a $US1 billion investment but its VSS Unity spacecraft reached the edge of space in December 2018 and a mission earlier this year carried Virgin astronaut Beth Moses as a passenger.
The company announced in July that it intended to list publicly in combination with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp.
Boeing said its investment through its Horizon X Ventures organization would be in return for new shares in Galactic and was contingent of the closing of the transaction, expected in the fourth quarter of 2019
“Boeing’s strategic investment facilitates our effort to drive the commercialization of space and broaden consumer access to safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible new forms of transportation,” said Brian Schettler, senior managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures
“Our work with Virgin Galactic, and others, will help unlock the future of space travel and high-speed mobility.”
Virgin Galactic already expertise in developing and building its Mach 3 passenger vehicle.
The companies noted that Virgin Galactic could design, build, test, and operate a fleet of advanced aerospace vehicles through its manufacturing facilities.
Boeing, for its part, had “unsurpassed experience transporting people to orbit and building and operating large structures in that challenging environment”.