On its website, Virgin Galactic recently announced its new partnership with Under Armour. Virgin Galactic said that UA (NYSE: UA) is now its exclusive technical partner for creating next-generation spacewear. The partnership brings two powerful missions together; Virgin Galactic’s mission is to help facilitate commercial space travel, and UA’s mission is to create reliable and innovative performance wear. Together, the two companies hope to outfit and equip astronauts with gear that is useful, comfortable, and stylish.
Kevin Plank and Richard Branson Welcome Partnership Opportunity
Kevin Plank is the founder of Under Armour, and Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group. When asked about the new partnership between the two companies, Branson said that he had followed UA’s progress over the years via his friendship with Plank. Also, he said that Plank and UA had established other relationships with Virgin Group companies in the past. Branson said that he admired UA and its dynamic team for pushing boundaries with the determination to boost performance. For this reason, he said that he felt honored by UA agreeing to the partnership. Branson also has a history of being a boundary pusher. He attempted to set several travel-related world records in the past. According to Branson, the new partnership rests on a strong foundation of shared values. He said that when he boards the inaugural public passenger space flight, he will feel privileged to wear one of the spacesuits that UA designed.
In response to the partnership announcement, Plank called it the opportunity of a lifetime to work with Branson and the Virgin Galactic team. He said that his company’s team members across the globe were all excited about the partnership and that Under Armour saw the opportunity as a way to test innovation at the highest level. While UA’s ability to push boundaries and develop innovative solutions for top athletes is notable, the company considers the opportunity to design high-level performance gear for commercial space travel a legendary experience.
Virgin Galactic Leads the Race to Space
For many decades, people have fantasized about space travel and wondered if it would ever be possible for them to experience. With technology improving by leaps and bounds every year, the possibility is on the brink of reality. Virgin Galactic already designed and launched the VSS Unity, the first spaceship built for passengers. It was sent to the edge of space in 2018, and the spacecraft was used for a second test flight soon afterward. On the second test flight, a Virgin Galactic astronaut trainer rode along as a passenger. In addition to becoming the company’s first space passenger, she joined a list of under 600 people who have been in space.
Since space travel was only for astronauts in the past, flying multiple passengers into space will be a new experience for these professionals. SpaceShipTwo is the spacecraft that Virgin Galactic has been developing since the early 2000s and is planning to use for its inaugural journey. The rocket-powered spaceship accelerates three times faster than the speed of sound. Once passengers reach their space destination, they will be able to see their home planet from the darkness of space. They will also be permitted to leave their seats and experience the feeling of being weightless.
In early July, Virgin Galactic announced its plans to go public later this year. Arrangements for its IPO are already underway, and Branson said that Virgin Galactic becoming the first space company to go public will create a new realm of opportunities for investors. Also, he believes that it will be a step toward making space travel more competitive and affordable. Although the current space flight price is high, he said that prices should drop considerably in the decade following the first passenger spacecraft launch.
Under Armour’s Contributions
UA is still working on designs and fabrics for spacesuits. However, the company will soon finish its uniforms for Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America team in New Mexico. Astronaut trainers, engineers, and all other staff members will have performance-grade uniforms designed to support them comfortably during groundwork and training. The inspiration for the uniforms came from special athletic apparel. UA has made gear for some of the greatest athletes on the planet. When UA makes clothing for athletes, it uses a special approach that meets every need category.
For the Virgin Galactic partnership, Under Armour has additional responsibilities. It must also assist in designing programs to prepare and support astronauts. Incorporating the company’s requirement of a holistic approach, the programs will address every step of preparation and recovery. When the programs are planned, professionals must consider fitness, nutrition, sleep, mobility, and much more.
The new spacesuit line will include both footwear and clothing, and the two companies said that they expect the entire line to be unveiled later in 2019. UA’s spacesuits will be for pilots and passengers.
When Will the Inaugural Commercial Space Flight Take Place?
To many people, the idea of commercial space travel still seems too extraordinary to accept. However, Branson is confident enough in the safety of his spacecraft and astronaut team that he is planning to be aboard the inaugural voyage with two of his children. Also, several A-list celebrities have already made deposits for spots on the first flight, which will last about 90 minutes. The company accepted deposits that were about one-half of the ticket price, which was set at $250,000 per person. There is also a growing waiting list with more than 700 people who have paid deposits to secure seats on future flights.
The original estimated plan for a 2007 inaugural flight was postponed. In 2013, plans to launch the inaugural flight in 2015 were announced. More celebrities signed up then, and Lady Gaga was supposed to give a short musical performance on the spacecraft after it reached space. Branson and his spacecraft development team postponed the launch and made some additional changes to enhance safety and passenger experience. One of those improvement ideas was innovative space wear, which eventually led to the recent UA partnership. Branson said that he plans to be on the inaugural flight within several months. In a May event, the CEO of Virgin Galactic said that the inaugural flight with Branson and a few other passengers could take place in late 2019.
For the rest of the summer and fall, the company is planning a few more test flights from Spaceport America. The CEO said that the company is doing this to ensure that the pilots are completely comfortable before multiple passengers are added to the equation.
About Under Armour
Founded by Kevin Plank and headquartered in Baltimore, Under Armour is a leading athletic apparel brand. It develops and markets performance clothing, shoes, and other accessories. The company’s goal is to make each wearer better. The UA brand is popular among star athletes and people who embrace active lifestyles. UA is also the creator of the Connected Fitness platform, the largest connected fitness and health community.
About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic is one of the 400 companies that Virgin Group controls. Mubadala Investment Group is also a partial owner of Virgin Galactic. The company is credited with being the first commercial space travel carrier in the world. It has multiple spaceships that are in use or are currently under development. Through the facilitation of The Spaceship Company (TSC), Virgin Galactic tested its spacecraft in Mojave, California. TSC also manufactured Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft. After the company completes its remaining test flights, it will operate out of New Mexico.
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