The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and Virgin Group have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding for a partnership under which PIF intends to invest approximately $1 billion into Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit.
PIF will also take an option for $480 million of future additional investment in space services.
The intention to invest was agreed by crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and of the PIF, and Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.
The strategic guidance for the partnership was provided by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ministry of economy and planning.
PIF and Virgin partnership creates a strong platform to enhance the role of innovative technology within the Kingdom’s blueprint for a modern, diversified economy, which is a central part of Vision 2030.
Crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, said: “This partnership with Virgin Group reflects the great strides the kingdom is making towards our vision for a diversified, knowledge-based economy.
“The future of Saudi Arabia is one of innovation, as showcased at this week’s Future Investment Initiative, and it’s through partnerships with organizations like Virgin Group that we will make active contributions to those sectors and technologies that are driving progress on a global scale.”
The intended investment will, subject to regulatory approval, result in PIF taking a significant stake in Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit, alongside Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments.
This will support the companies’ human spaceflight plans and accelerate Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing and operational capabilities.
It will also aid the development of next generation low cost small satellite launch systems and commercial supersonic point-to-point travel capabilities; and includes the possibility to develop a space centric entertainment industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Branson said: “We are delighted to welcome the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as our new partners in Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit under the leadership of crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud.
“We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic going into space with people on board and Virgin Orbit going into orbit and placing satellites around the earth.
“This investment will enable us to develop the next generation of satellite launches and accelerate our programme for point to point supersonic space travel.”