Sir Richard Branson and His Royal Highness Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud. Image courtesy of Virgin.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia will invest around $1 billion into Long Beach-based Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, Virgin announced today. The PIF signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to invest the funds, with an option for $480 million of future additional investment in space services.
Agreed upon by His Royal Highness 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, guidance of the partnership was provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning.
“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,” Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said in a statement.
In development at Virgin Orbit is LauncherOne, a launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets, which are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, will be air-launched from a dedicated 747 with the ability to be operated from different locations. Initial orbital launches are expected to happen as early as 2019.
“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,” Branson stated. “This investment will enable us to develop the next generation of satellite launches and accelerate our programme for point-to-point supersonic space travel.”
H.E. Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan, managing director of PIF, and Patrick McCall, senior managing director of the Virgin Group, signed the MoU during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.
“This partnership with Virgin Group reflects the great strides the Kingdom is making towards our vision for a diversified, knowledge-based economy,” HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud said in a statement. “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.”
Subject to regulatory approval, the intended investment will give PIF a significant stake in the three companies, as well as Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments.
According to Virgin, the investment will support plans for human spaceflight and accelerate Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing and operational capabilities, while aiding in the development of next-generation, low-cost small satellite launch systems and commercial supersonic travel capabilities.