Whitesides is leaving Virgin Galactic


Virgin Galactic‘s long-serving CEO, who took on a new role at the firm last year, has stepped down but will remain an advisor to the company. Whitesides is stepping down as Virgin Galactic’s chief space officer to seek unspecified public service opportunities, according to the firm. Since Whitesides was not considered an official of the firm, the publicly listed firm did not make an official announcement.

Whitesides announced his departure from Virgin Galactic in an email but added that he would stay chair of the company’s latest Space Advisory Board. Ex-astronauts Sandy Magnus and Chris Hadfield, as well as David Whelan, Cubic Corporation’s chief scientist who formerly served at Boeing and DARPA, are on the board, which was revealed on February 9.

According to Virgin Galactic’s confirmation of the board the previous month, the board will advise the firm as it prepares to enter commercial operations, including reviewing technological and organizational best practices. Whitesides stated in the report that the board “will support senior management with task of opening room for everyone.” After working as the Chief of Staff at the NASA Headquarters, Whitesides joined Virgin Galactic as CEO in the year 2010. He was one of the company’s first clients for the SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane, and he knew the company well.

Virgin Galactic named Michael Colglazier, who is an ex-Disney executive, as its Chief Executive in 2020 July. Whitesides was given the title of “chief space officer” by the firm, and he will be in charge of some of the firm’s long ambitions of high-speed point-to-point travel as well as orbital spaceflight. In a call with experts in July, Virgin Galactic chairman Chamath Palihapitiya stated, “By establishing this new position of chief space officer, we are going to enable George to devote his time as well as skill sets to bringing these very significant elements forward.”

Whitesides’ exit is part of a recent change in Virgin Galactic’s corporate leadership. Doug Ahrens, the firm’s chief financial officer, was confirmed on February 25. He was previously the CEO of Mellanox, a semiconductor firm that was purchased in the year 2020. He takes over for Jon Campagna, who left the organization on March 1. On February 25, Virgin Galactic announced the recruitment of two fresh executives. Swami Iyer will take over as the company’s next president of aerospace systems, as well as Stephen Justice will take over as vice president of engineering.