George Whitesides

George Whitesides

Chairman, Space Advisory Board, Virgin Galactic


George Whitesides is the Chairman of the Space Advisory Board for Virgin Galactic, a human spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson. George was the first CEO of the company, growing the company over ten years from a small team to the global aerospace firm it is today. 

Under George's leadership, the company flew the first human spaceflight from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, flew the first woman to space on a commercial space vehicle, and went public on the New York Stock Exchange. His focus now is on using technology to help solve societal problems. With Caltech and other organizations, he is strengthening efforts to increase innovation and government responsiveness to wildfires. With Gallaudet University and Disabled American Veterans, he is opening spaceflight to the disabled community through AstroAccess. With organizations across Southern California, he has funded various efforts to fight against Covid, bringing together NASA, industry and academia to bring new solutions to the field through the Antelope Valley Covid Task Force. 

George oversaw the formation and growth of Virgin Orbit, a satellite launch company based in Long Beach, as CEO from its founding as a small team inside Galactic in 2011 to a 400 person operation that was spun out of Galactic in 2017. Virgin Orbit has successfully launched multiple satellites into orbit from its unique air-launch platform, and went public on the NASDAQ in late 2021. 

Prior to Galactic and Orbit, George worked on President Obama's transition team in 2008, and subsequently served as NASA Chief of Staff for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The reforms in NASA during that period have supported and helped catalyze the massive innovation and growth now driving the space sector. George was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the agency!s highest honor, upon his departure in 2010. 

George serves on a variety of philanthropic councils and boards, including Caltech's Space Innovation Council, Princeton's Advisory Council for Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Science Advisory Board for Caltech!s Space Solar Power Initiative. He has co-chaired the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Space, which developed the Space Sustainability Rating during his tenure. He co-chaired the X PRIZE Space Brain Trust, to develop new space prizes following the success of the Ansari X Prize; chaired the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA!s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, and served as vice chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. He has served as a trustee of Princeton University and Virgin Unite USA. 

George helped found the BLAST scholarship program to mentor Black aerospace student-leaders in partnership with UNCF, and serves as a mentor for the Isakowitz Fellowship program. George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the

United States House of Representatives, and the President!s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. He did his undergraduate degree with honors in Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, an MPhil in GIS and Remote Sensing at Cambridge University, and a Fulbright Scholarship in Tunisia.