(Sen) - Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments and Virgin Group today announced that they have agreed to enter a strategic partnership, which will see Aabar take an equity stake in the world’s first commercial spaceline - Virgin Galactic. To date Virgin Galactic has been wholly owned and funded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
The deal, signed today at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin attended by Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, and Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar. The signing ceremony is taking place alongside Virgin Galactic’s new carrier space launch vehicle, Mothership VMS Eve, who will be making her debut public appearance with a flight demonstration at the show. Excitingly, Sir Richard Branson is due to be onboard the Mothership as a member of the crew for a demonstration flight on Tuesday 28th July.
Under the deal, Aabar will invest US$280m and take a 32% stake in Virgin Galactic’s holding company, valuing the business at approximately $900m. Additionally, Aabar has shown to share Virgin Galactic’c vision to the future and will potentially commit a further $110m to fund a small satellite launch capability. Abu Dhabi will also gain exclusive regional rights, subject to regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space flights. Exciting plans for the future include plans to build spaceport facilities in Abu Dhabi, which demonstrates Abu Dhabi’s commitment to being an international destination of choice and to grow as a leader in tourism, advanced science, technology and higher education.”
Sir Richard Branson said: “We are delighted to partner Aabar in a strategic deal that is a first for Virgin Galactic. The initiative will leverage the solid financial backing of the Aabar group and the pioneering technology and strong global relationships of Virgin Galactic. This exciting deal is indicative of the interesting and high value investments that mark the UAE’s commercial portfolio.”
“This transaction carries multiple potential for the creation of an exceptional platform for space infrastructure such as research labs, space centre for commercial travel and much more,” said Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny.
The new joint venture also proposes to undertake additional development which will enable the space system to launch small satellites at unprecedented levels of cost, reliability and flexibility.
WhiteKnightTwo, VG’s new carrier aircraft is well into its test flight programme and is performing flawlessly. It is the world’s largest all carbon composite aircraft and has a unique high altitude, heavy lift capability.