George T. Whitesides
Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Galactic, LLC
George Whitesides is the CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson. Using technologies developed to win the historic X Prize, the company has developed revolutionary new space vehicles to take people and small satellites to space at very low cost.
In his role, Whitesides is responsible for guiding all aspects of the company to the launch of commercial operations in the United States and a proposed spaceport in Abu Dhabi. This includes oversight of The Spaceship Company, a manufacturing entity to produce additional space vehicles. Virgin Galactic currently has deposits from over 540 individuals for its spaceflight experience, representing over $100M of future business, as well as preliminary agreements with satellite operators to launch as many as hundreds of small satellites.
Prior to Virgin Galactic, Whitesides served as Chief of Staff for NASA, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Upon his departure from the agency he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers. Prior to his role at NASA, Whitesides served as Executive Director of the National Space Society (NSS). NSS is a space policy and education group based in Washington DC that was founded by Apollo program leader Wernher von Braun and the journalist Hugh Downs.
Whitesides currently serves on the board of Virgin Unite USA, the philanthropic organization of Virgin Group; the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Space Security; and the advisory board of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation. He is a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society, and Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has previously served as Chairman of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He served for four years on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University.
Whitesides has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Whitesides maintains an active speaking and media schedule.
Mr. Whitesides received his undergraduate degree in public and international affairs with honors from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, a master’s degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge in England, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Tunisia. Whitesides is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.