Virgin Galactic has signed a memorandum of understanding with NASA to carry out feasibility studies into commercial spaceflight systems and hypersonic intercontinental travel with the help of the US space agency's Ames Research Center.

Virgin Galactic is yet to set a budget for its research but the work will include hybrid rocket motor development and studies of vehicles that fly faster than Mach 5.
Based in California Ames has 2,300 research personnel, a $600 million annual budget and its facilities include wind tunnels.

For the next two years Dan Coughlin, a propulsion expert from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, who has been working with Ames, is to work with Virgin Galactic.
“This agreement is specifically aimed at future systems beyond our current suborbital programme with The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composites. [We] are really looking forward to exploring opportunities for the future and making hypersonic point to point travel possible,” says Virgin Galactic chief operating officer Alex Tai. The MOU could lead to a space act agreement.

The MOU is between NASA and a new US registered company, Virgin Galactic LLC. This US Virgin Galactic will be the trading company that operates from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. It will be owned by a US registered holding company called Galactic Ventures.

Galactic Ventures will also own The Spaceship Company. The Spaceship Company is a joint venture between Scaled Composites and the Virgin Group. Scaled Composites is developing the suborbital SpaceShipTwo for the UK registered Virgin Galactic company.