Last year, hurricanes absolutely devastated much of the Caribbean, including our home in the British Virgin Islands. Buildings were destroyed, entire cities leveled, and millions of people lost power and telecommunication. Lacking connection to the world, the prospect of recovery seemed bleak.
Among those most crucial to the relief effort were the women and men of the United States Air Force’s Air Mobility command. Deploying within hours of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, they transported aid workers, refugees, and nearly five million pounds of critical relief supplies to people and nations in desperate need.
So, I was honoured when General Maryanne Miller, the newly appointed 4-star general who runs the Air Mobility Command, invited me to join her on stage as a surprise guest at a conference for and about the men and women under her command.
General Miller wanted to impress upon her team the importance of keeping a culture of innovation, of taking smart risks, and of taking care of your people, values we have in common. She wondered if I might join her on stage in front of nearly a thousand service members of all ranks for a fireside chat about how we think about culture here at Virgin.
One of my favorite parts of the conference was Spark Tank, an internal competition that allowed any member under General Miller’s command to suggest ideas that could make their operations smoother and their people safer. Having been a guest judge on the television programme Shark Tank before, I offered a bit of advice to one of the judges - Mandy Vaughn, the President of VOX Space, a Virgin Orbit subsidiary. I even had the chance to announce the Spark Tank winner.
It was also great to talk about how the Virgin space companies could help Gen. Miller with future relief efforts, like the one we saw first-hand in the Caribbean last year, or in other parts of her mission. It turns out that one of the hardest parts of recovering from a terrible natural disaster is the crippling lack of data. For instance, relief workers and government officials need quick, reliable information about where the people are, where the need is greatest, and where roads are washed out.
Well, that’s an area where Virgin Orbit can help. By using a converted Virgin Atlantic 747 as our ‘flying launch pad’, Virgin Orbit can get satellites into orbit over any region of the Earth incredible quickly - in just a few days, rather than months.
We look forward to helping this team, and many others, in the future by having Virgin Orbit and our customers put satellites into space to quickly and effectively support their disaster relief work.