How Virgin Galactic is helping to tackle COVID-19

View of Earth from VSS Unity
Image by Virgin Galactic
Kami White
by Kami White
31 March 2020

With the impact of COVID-19 evolving every day, Virgin Galactic are working on ways to help tackle this crisis. Teams across the company have been stepping up to help where they can. Whether it be the hospitality teams, procurement, facilities, safety, supply chain, engineering, medical teams - people are offering up their expertise, time, technology and ideas to help relieve the pressure on communities and medical institutions at this time.

Virgin Galactic have created a dedicated tactical team, led by their in-house flight doctors who have been working closely with local hospitals, commercial suppliers and government authorities to provide help where it is needed it most. 

Virgin Galactic team members donating items to hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic
Image from Virgin Galactic

Recognising the national US shortage of medical equipment, Virgin Galactic have been donating supplies and innovating designs to support the healthcare system, improve testing times and protect workers on the frontline. Here are a few initiatives Virgin Galactic are working hard on:

  • The team have donated multiple medical supplies across their communities in New Mexico and California. This includes masks, suits, gloves and pulse oximeters.

  • Virgin Galactic are also donating Powered Air Purifying Respirators to hospitals. These machines offer additional protection for the front-line workers who are in physical proximity to those patients suffering from the virus.

  • Virgin Galactic have donated several hundred N95 masks to hospitals in California and New Mexico and have teamed up with partners to donate another several thousand. 

Boxes of face masks on a table
Image from Virgin Galactic
  • Virgin Galactic is also donating PAPRs (Powered Air Purifying Respirators) to local hospitals. These important machines offer additional protection for the front-line workers who are in the closest physical proximity to those patients suffering from COVID-19. 

  • Virgin Galactic is also helping support the purchase of fast COVID-19 testing machines in both New Mexico and California to improve diagnostic times. 

  • Virgin Galactic's engineering teams, in collaboration with industry aerospace engineers, have been working on designs to manufacture a low cost breathing hood that provides oxygen rich positive pressure to patients in need. These can be used for patients who are in the hospital with respiratory problems but are yet to need a ventilator, or can be used when none are available.

  • The team are also bringing food to frontline health workers and other support organisations. This includes boxed lunch deliveries to medical centres and snack box deliveries to Mojave High School and Grace Resources in California.

With schools shut down across the US and UK, Virgin Galactic have launched a live educational program called Spacechats. The series was developed in collaboration with their outreach initiative, Galactic Unite, and will present regular space discussions with experts from across the company. The first episode will stream live this Thursday (April 2, 9.30am PT) with Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, explaining what it’s like to travel to space based on her own spaceflight experience. Virgin Galactic have also created a kids corner on the Galactic Unite website where the Virgin Galactic engineers, pilots, spaceship builders and designers have shared some fun space and STEM themed activities.

A picture of Beth Moses on the left with text on the right. Text reads: Space chat, Travelling to space with Beth Moses, astronaut
Image from Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said: “In our industry we talk a lot about the Overview Effect, the profound realization upon seeing Earth from space that we are all in this together on this spaceship Earth. The Overview Effect is a realization of the oneness of humankind, and the precious biosphere of Earth in the vast unforgiving vacuum of space. Many astronauts, upon returning from space, report a newfound appreciation for our home planet and the importance of keeping, caring for, and preserving it. I can’t help but reflect on our current situation and feel that this terrible challenge has also given us a sense of global community, that we are in this together and we have a responsibility to help our global population get through it.

"I am at heart an optimist, and a believer in the power of science and innovation to improve our planet. I am also an optimist that human beings are fundamentally good, and that shared challenge can bring out our best. COVID-19 requires all of us to get in the fight and do what we can immediately. It’s a very tough time, and it may well get worse for the next bit, but if we work together – deploying human ingenuity, toughness, and community resilience – we will beat it."

Learn more about Virgin Galactic and the support they’re offering right here.