Virgin Galactic and Aabar Investments appoint chief advisor for Spaceport Abu Dhabi

by Staff Reporter | April 18th, 2012

George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic LLC, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Aabar Investments PJS (“Aabar”) have appointed Steve Landeene to the role of chief advisor, Spaceport Abu Dhabi. Between 2007 and 2010, Landeene was executive director of Spaceport America in New Mexico and oversaw the development of Virgin Galactic’s operational hub and the world’s first purpose built commercial spaceport.

Under a deal announced in 2009 between Virgin Galactic and Aabar, the two companies agreed that Abu Dhabi would gain exclusive regional rights, subject to the receipt of regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space flights. Landeene’s appointment is an important step in bringing those plans to fruition, underscoring Abu Dhabi’s commitment to being an international destination of choice and a regional leader in tourism, advanced science, technology and higher education.

Under a deal announced in 2009 between Virgin Galactic and Aabar, the two companies agreed that Abu Dhabi would gain exclusive regional rights, subject to the receipt of regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space flights.

Landeene will be responsible for developing a roadmap for the proposed construction of a spaceport in Abu Dhabi. Starting from strategic and organisational business planning, and then, if the requisite regulatory approvals are obtained, moving through to spaceport construction management and finally to spaceport operations, Landeene will ensure that Spaceport Abu Dhabi meets the objectives of its investors and complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

Commenting on the appointment, Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of Aabar said: “We are pleased that someone with Steve’s exceptional experience in aerospace and spaceport development has agreed to spearhead this exciting and important vision for the project. We are at the dawn of a new era in commercial space and are perfectly positioned with the world’s first spaceline, Virgin Galactic, to ensure that we are a prime beneficiary of the opportunities that will follow. This will become a regional hub for space tourism, as well as space-based science research and education. We look forward to working closely with Steve as he helps us to realise that dream.”

George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic added: “Steve’s appointment comes at a particularly exciting time for Virgin Galactic as we move into the final stages of test flights prior to commercial operations at Spaceport America. It also reinforces the strategic partnership we enjoy with Aabar. From the start, both companies have shared a common vision for the future of commercial space and for the opportunity it presents to Abu Dhabi. Virgin Galactic has a beautiful home at Spaceport America in New Mexico, due in no small part to Steve’s leadership during a crucial phase in its development. We are delighted that Steve is now bringing that learning and experience to bear on Spaceport Abu Dhabi and look forward to the day when Virgin Galactic spaceships are a regular sight in the skies above this vibrant and forward-looking city.”

One of the first tasks for this initiative will be to engage on regulatory requirements and then consider suitable potential spaceport sites in Abu Dhabi.

Underscoring the visionary nature of this appointment and reinforcing its commitment to Abu Dhabi, Virgin Galactic also announced a partnership with Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, to establish an intern programme encouraging the next generation of leaders.

Commenting on the partnership, Whitesides said: “We share a commitment to higher education with the city of Abu Dhabi. As Virgin Galactic extends its global footprint, we intend to support the communities in which we are involved, and are eager for this intern programme to become fully established. We are working with the university on an application process for this unique opportunity.” This summer, the programme’s first student will work in London at Virgin Galactic’s headquarters with its global brand team.

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