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A go-ahead was given last week by the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) that clears the way for exchanges of technical information between Scaled Composites of Mojave, California and Virgin Galactic of the United Kingdom to build passenger-carrying suborbital spaceliners.
Among its duties, DDTC administers and enforces International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
“Putting it in ITAR terms…this is one small step for ITAR, one big leap for Virgin Galactic,” said Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic—the space tourism endeavor that is a subsidiary of British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
“It allows us to activate all the parts of the project,” Whitehorn told SPACE.com in an exclusive phone interview, such as use of technology—SpaceShipOne’s reentry concept and hybrid rocket motor design, for example—that can be licensed through Paul Allen’s Mojave Aerospace Ventures.
Whitehorn said that the DDTC has approved a request for a Technical Assistance Agreement (TAA) between Scaled Composites LLC, Virgin Galactic LLC, and Virgin Management Ltd. This does not require the issuing of a license as such.
The request itself for the TAA was made by Scaled Composites on behalf of the three companies, Whitehorn said.
Because Scaled Composites is the deemed exporter of ‘technical’ information to Virgin—being a non-U.S. group—the request to enter into a Technical Assistance Agreement with Virgin had to be formally submitted to the DDTC by Scaled,” said Jonathan Peachey, Virgin’s Vice President of Finance and Business Development.
DDTC’s approval to the request by Scaled Composites allows all three parties to enter into a TAA under which the exchange of technical information will take place, Peachey told SPACE.com.