Comprehensive coverage

"The great gift of space flights is the opportunity to observe the Earth from the outside and see how fragile it is"

This is what Stephen Attenborough, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Galactic says during a virtual conference held by Juniper Networks. Enborough's talk was broadcast from Virgin Galactic's Astronaut Office in London

Stephen Attenborough, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Galactic. From a digital conference of the JUNIPER company
Stephen Attenborough, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Galactic. From a digital conference of the JUNIPER Networks company

"The great gift of space flights is the opportunity to observe the earth from the outside and see how fragile it is." This is what Stephen Attenborough, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Galactic says during a virtual conference held by Juniper Networks. Enborough's talk was broadcast from Virgin Galactic's Astronaut Office in London.

"It was hard not to feel that something was happening in the last few months in the field of manned space flights. Hardly a week goes by without new news about something new that hasn't been done before. Including of course the manned flights of 'Blue Origin', from us at 'Virgin Galactic', as well as from 'SpaceX'. It's exciting."

"My message today is that we are at the dawn of a new space age. This is a new era that will change our businesses and our private lives. This is a space age characterized by reusable spacecraft that will be built and operated by private companies, open up new markets for new customers and really begin to open access to space for everyone."

"At performances in front of audiences I have asked more than once: how many people have dreamed of flying into space, experiencing weightlessness, seeing the beauty of the earth from a spaceship? And many hands were raised. The second question was how many people think they could become astronauts? I'll be lucky if someone in the audience raises their hand."

"This is why we are here. And I think I have good news today. If you want to go into space, there is a reasonable chance that you will be able to do so and certainly your children and grandchildren will fly into space as a matter of course. I am fortunate to have joined Virgin Galactic as their first full-time employee some 17 years ago. I didn't know much about Virgin Galactic at the time, I didn't know much about space then, but I was intrigued and went to meet our founder, Richard Branson for the first time."

"I remember this conversation clearly. It's something that paved our way in building this business, the way we think about it, the way we talk about it, and also the way we operate it for customers. After the conversation I returned home and I had a lot of questions, the main one being: Why? I remember a funny story about Richard when he spoke many years ago, and answered the audience's questions, and always someone would raise their hand and say: I want a direct answer: How do I become a millionaire like you? And he answered him: This is a very easy problem, I will recommend you an easy way to achieve the goal: be a billionaire and start an airline."

"I remembered this story and I am sure that if it is true for airlines, it is even more true for space companies. So why do you do this? I asked him and he explained: "We at Virgin love challenges. This is why I got into this business in the first place. try to improve the well-being of consumers. We looked for sectors and industries that do not provide a high level of service. We only enter the business if we think we will enjoy being a part of it. We shake up the industry, and try to do everything differently. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don't."

Richard Branson and the passengers who accompanied him on the first suborbital flight. PR photo, Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson and the passengers who accompanied him on the first suborbital flight. PR photo, Virgin Galactic

I thought: "Well, I see it in the businesses I know in the UK but I still don't understand what this ambition means for the space sector." And he answered: "When I was a child, my defining moment was during the first landing on the moon in 1969. I remember watching it with my parents. It was a life-changing moment and I wanted to fly into space. I really wanted to but my mother told me: don't worry. We will all be flying into space by 1985 thanks to the amazing improvements we saw in the decade of the sixties. He said: Of course it didn't happen. I realized that if I want to fly into space, surely millions of other people will too."

"Like any other field, before 'Virgin' entered it, customers received poor service. Believe it or not, even today, less than 600 people have been in space. We want to change that. We want to make the experience possible for all those who dream of watching the earth from the black sky of space. "I understand how it fits into the ethos of 'Virgin', but there is something more than that because we are trying to open a new business area and operate it in a way that leaves behind a legacy that will be good for both people and the planet. We want to leave the world a better place than we found it when we were born."

"This is the real reason why we had to open Virgin Galactic, because he said we will experience many challenges not only as a country but as a human race in the coming decades. There is no single holy grail, of course, nothing that we can instantly improve the situation with. Providing access to space can create change. Currently, despite the access to space that has existed for several decades and has changed our lives in many ways, it is still a narrow path that not many have been able to afford to cross. This field has its risks, it is not completely safe. Therefore, we need to turn the narrow path into a highway."

"This way we can allow everyone access to the space and take advantage of its advantages. And so if you see, for example, what Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are doing, they all want to improve the service experience, even though they use different aircraft architectures. It is about the democratization of space, opening it up so that in the future entrepreneurs and educators and any other person who wants to, will be able to use the basic infrastructure to fly into space and enjoy its benefits. This is the significant thing."

"I am often asked why invest money, resources and time in observing our world from the outside when there are so many problems to solve here on Earth? What I realized is that solving the problems on Earth and opening access to space are not contradictory activities. In fact, there is a close connection and to manage the impact of climate change or to feed the expanding population, without access to space it will be very difficult to deal with these problems."

"'Virgin Galactic' is a business with a purpose. One of the reasons why I like working here and I'm sure the other employees in the company feel the same way, is that it's good for us to be involved in this project because of the sense of mission that we are doing something important, and also running a business. Another thing Richard told me in 2004 is that we will make the business successful if we can do what we always do at Virgin - put the customer experience at the center. Therefore, even though space is a difficult place, we have to constantly think about safety. We need a good aircraft that can fly regularly efficiently and safely."

"We're going to build this spaceship from the inside out, metaphysically speaking, because if the customer experience isn't good, we're out of business. This is one of the great challenges that the new space age faces in contrast to the old space age, so that it can be vital and profitable. We need to find markets and build efficient and reusable aircraft so that we can be commercially successful, because if we do this we will encourage competition, we will encourage the development of competing technologies, and the industry will expand and flourish similar to civil aviation in the last century."

"That was my role when I joined - to ensure that we keep the customer at the center of everything we do. In order for us to do this we will of course need to recruit customers. We started this at a very early stage and I remember the first web page we set up, we had a first prototype. We told people - let's do something important, but also something that will be a lifetime experience. If you want to join and help us realize these dreams and goals, we can't tell you much. We don't know when we can start flying, we don't know what the spacecraft will look like, we don't know what the experience will be like. We don't know who will be able to fly, but if you want to be involved you can send us a check for $200."

"To our surprise, people did, and my lesson is that getting the customers in the tent early on is the best thing because it not only ensures that we build a good customer experience, the customer journey, which is the best thing that can be because it was driven by the people who flew first. It also means that when we have had bad days as well as good days, these customers have been good ambassadors. This was an important lesson we learned. We now have 600 customers and the number is starting to grow again. We have opened more seats, the approximately 600 future astronauts, as we call them, come from sixty countries around the world. This is a unique community, very involved, and people who want to help us change the world and make it better."

"If we want to succeed in this field, we not only need good customers, we also need a good aircraft. Space is not an easy place. He is challenging. It took us 17 years to reach the end of the test flight program but we are blessed with technology that we believe is elegant and fit for purpose. When the original designer, Brett Rutan, who is a legendary aerospace engineer and aircraft designer, thought of this system, he took a piece of paper and said that if he was building the spacecraft from scratch, how could he make sure that this phase of spaceflight would be safe? How can he guarantee the customer's flight experience? The spacecraft we built does not look like what most people imagine - a rocket. First of all, it has wings and secondly it actually consists of two aircraft. not one I will demonstrate to you some of the features that make the system so elegant and winning in terms of customer experience. First, we do not take off vertically from the ground. To do this requires a lot of fuel. It is a controlled explosion on the ground with the astronauts sitting on top of the rocket. Most of the energy is wasted pushing the vessel through the thin atmosphere near the surface of the ground. This is not our way. Today we know how to utilize the thin upper atmosphere effectively, reliably, cheaply and safely. It's called an airplane, and we have a hundred years of experience with airplanes. Let's use the plane with our spaceship attached to it. So the first part of the flight will be much more efficient and will provide a better customer experience and also give us a safety advantage."

"This is the first innovation. The second innovation shows that sometimes the innovative solutions are actually the simplest and it is related to the question of how do we return from space - from the void of space quickly to the Earth's atmosphere? This is always a challenge, one of the biggest challenges in spaceflight, especially if we want to use the spacecraft hundreds if not thousands of times and do it safely. Brett said "I don't want to rely on computerized systems. If I want to use the spaceship again I have to rely on a pilot flying the spaceship in the right direction. In the middle of the night, so the legend goes, he had a vision of a sort of feather in Dammington. The feather falls with the ball down and then it stops because it acts as an air stop. We do this by rotating the wings and even if the spacecraft enters the atmosphere upside down, it turns in the right direction without us having to do anything. The spaceship slows itself down and then you can direct the wings back to the original position, and glide to the landing track."

"We know it works because we have done these flights many times. I will now explain to you what the customer experience will look like if you join us in New Mexico at Spaceport America, the first dedicated commercial spaceport. About five days before the flight - your ticket will allow you to bring with you a close friend or family member who will accompany you during the preparations before the flight. During the five days we will prepare you for the flight of your life. We will make sure that you fly safely, there is a great emphasis on that of course. Secondly, so that you can capture every second of the flight (the flight is not long but intense) we don't want you to try to take pictures all the time. You have to take advantage of every second and live the moment. We do a lot of simulations and explanations about the day of the flight, a lot of training so that you are ready to fly. Put on the space suit - you can take it home with you, and we'll start seeing people wearing them everywhere. You will join your colleagues in the team with whom you will train and prepare in the five days before the flight. You will drive to the spaceship in a car and join the pilots who will be there when the spaceship is attached to the plane."

"Then you will come aboard. The first leg of the flight will be quite familiar. Take off from runway, spend the next 45 minutes talking to crew members and thinking about what's going to happen to get ready, as well as enjoy the sun shining over the New Mexico desert. When everything is ready and we reach 45 thousand feet, the pilots will say they are ready to go. Everyone will raise their toes. The spacecraft will fall gently and move away from the mother ship, a short time of feeling a fall in the stomach, like the one you feel when you reach the top of a roller coaster."

"Very quickly the rocket engines are ignited and the world inside the passenger cabin changes sharply. The transition from zero to a hundred in about a second and crossing the speed of sound in six seconds. During this time the passengers feel acceleration forces of 3-3.5 G from the moment of acceleration and the passengers cling to their seats. The rocket engines growl behind them. When you cross the speed of sound, the pilot will point the nose of the spaceship upwards, and then you move away from the surface of the earth and continue at a speed of Mach 3. The sky turns from blue to purple and finally to black. After the acceleration that lasts for about a minute, the rocket engines are turned off and again an immediate change takes place in the passenger compartment. From a weight of 3 times the normal weight, the weight suddenly drops to zero. The pilots then say that it is safe to release yourself from the seats, you release the seat belts and stick one finger to the corner of the seat and begin to hover inside the cabin. Absolute silence of the space. Many of the passengers will want to do movements that cannot be done with gravity. At this point, the spacecraft pilots turn it on its back and the passengers can hover towards the windows and observe the Earth."

"This is the significant change. This is the gift of spaceflight because we know from the astronauts who have returned from space over the years they don't talk about the spaceflight for a week, a month or a year. They tell about her for the rest of their lives. Many of them said that when they looked at the Earth - their perspective changed - they suddenly realized that we are all in the spaceship 'Earth', that there is more that unites us than separates us as the human race, that the Earth is fragile and beautiful and we must protect it. They come back from space and want to share their experiences. We want to inspire others, we want to explain what they saw and how it affected them."

"This is the real opportunity for our industry. We can offer an astronaut experience that few have been able to experience until now. The many space travelers in the future will spread the planetary perspective that I believe in many ways the future of humanity depends on. You will be able to have this experience and I think it will be wonderful. This will be a factor that will bring about change."

"Of course, gravity will eventually increase and the spacecraft will be dragged back towards Earth. There is no danger that floating in space will last forever. After that, they land on the runway from which they took off, a ceremony takes place in which astronauts' wings are distributed and you can celebrate with family and friends. Each of the astronauts will receive tons of photos and videos to share for the rest of their lives. The community we established before the flight will continue to keep in touch even after the flight and we as a company will provide the infrastructure for this."

"The legacy that this era of manned spaceflight will leave behind is a different perspective on Earth." Attenborough concluded.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.

Skip to content