Virgin Galactic lays off 40 workers

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Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic earlier in January laid off 40 workers, saying it was in preparation for moving their launch operations to New Mexico where they will be doing their commercial flights.

This is about 5% of their payroll, so at first glance it does not appear to be a significant number. Yet, if they were about to move to commercial operations I would think their payroll would grow, not shrink.

The article itself buys into the company’s tediously overworn sales pitch (that they have been pushing for more than a decade) that they are about to start commercial operations, flying paying tourists, but this is just not credible. For example, as part of this sales pitch they made a big deal about hiring Under Armour to make the flight suits for their flights. Yet, no designs have been released, even though Virgin Galactic has been working on doing commercial tourist flights for more than fourteen years. Only now they realize they need flight suits?

In 2017 I predicted that Virgin Orbit would fly a commercial flight before Virgin Galactic, even though Orbit only started to seriously build its rocket in 2015, about a dozen years after Galactic got started. I stand by that prediction, which I expect will prove true this year.

At the time I also predicted that Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceship will never make orbital space, defined by practically everyone since around 1970 to be 67 miles elevation, or 100 kilometers. I also stand by that prediction, because only just before Unity’s flight to barely 50 miles did the issue of the definition of space reappear after almost a half century. Virgin Galactic has been pushing to get the definition changed because their spacecraft probably cannot get to 67 miles.

I just wish reporters would stop buying into Branson’s sales pitch. Show some skepticism, damn it. Your job isn’t to be a public relations agent for him.



  • BSJ

    Under Armour, and similar clothing, is banned from being worn by military personnel while in combat. Due to its material fussing and melting into the skin while burning.

    I sure hope they are going to use Nomex instead of their usual fabric…

  • pzatchok

    If they have a fire on board I don’t think they will care about their clothing sticking to them.

    Its a 30 minute flight at least strapped into a space the size of a large van. By the time they land they will be begging for the craft to just explode already and end their suffering.

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “If they have a fire on board I don’t think they will care about their clothing sticking to them.

    Not all fires need be catastrophic. The Mir space station had a dramatic fire on board, but the astronaut and cosmonauts survived nicely. Fortunately, none of their clothing melt onto them, and they did not have to abort the rest of the mission and abandon Mir. As with Mir, there is a possibility of extinguishing a fire on SpaceShipTwo before everyone is suffocated, in which case it would be nice that plastic clothing did not melt onto skin.

    On the other hand, if their clothing has melted onto their skin, then they would be begging for the craft to explode in order to end the suffering, whether they are on Mir or SpaceShipTwo.

  • wodun

    That is a large staff for not much progress.

  • Dick Eagleson

    SS2 was never intended to make it to “orbital space” just to space. The informal definition of space has been 100 km altitude (62 miles, not 67), but the U.S. used a lower altitude dividing line (50 mi.) in the 60’s and a recent paper by Johnathan McDowell argues that 80 km./50 mi. altitude is actually a more reasonable dividing line. This notion is now being given serious consideration by the FIA. Virgin Galactic has jumped on this modest bandwagon for obvious reasons but were not responsible for starting it rolling.

  • Dick Eagleson wrote: ” Virgin Galactic has jumped on this modest bandwagon for obvious reasons but were not responsible for starting it rolling.”

    I would not be so sure. In my time I have been approached a number of times by big space corporations trying to encourage me to write an op-ed for them, or even to put my name on an op-ed they have written. The timing of events here is therefore most intriguing.

  • I should add that I have always told such corporations to jump in a lake. This is unethical, and it tells me a lot about them.

  • BSJ


    A fire could happen on the ground, before they even take off…

  • Royal Hiney

    They can’t even get 67 miles up. Yet some people think they got 240000 miles up!

  • Royal Hiney

    It might be a better idea if he tried to fly over Antarctica. There is no proof that nobody ever crossed that continent. It could be a barrier that if crossed you’ll fall off.

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