Spring 2012

[Alumni News]

Bruce Jackson

Space Bound

Virgin Aircraft Submitted Photo

NOT TOO LONG ago, space travel was reserved for a select few: trained astronauts or those wealthy enough to charter a private trip to space. But in recent years, a growing number of companies have started offering commercial space travel to the paying public.

Bruce Jackson (‘84, Political Science) is among those leading that effort at Virgin Galactic, a company started by British businessman Richard Branson in 2004 that plans to launch sub-orbital flights to space in the next couple years.

As Vice President of Trade Controls and Export Strategy, Jackson is responsible for ensuring that Virgin complies with federal export and technology control requirements that apply to its aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, and its sub-orbital spacecraft SpaceShipTwo. It’s a unique responsibility that includes applying for export licenses and meeting with officials at the State Department, the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

Bruce Jackson

Working on export strategy is familiar territory for Jackson, who spent the past 27 years in international trade, with a focus on export control laws and regulations. After receiving a degree in political science from HSU, Jackson interned with a U.S. congressman. Then, after a stint at the International Trade Administration within the Department of Commerce, he took a position as an international trade consultant with a law firm in Washington, D.C. He worked on global export compliance for a company in Germany and at a startup that was later acquired by JP Morgan before joining Virgin Galactic last April.

Jackson says that Virgin plans to launch space flights from its future headquarters at Spaceport America near Las Cruces, N.M., in the next couple years. Each trip will carry six passengers and two pilots and include several minutes of weightlessness. During that time, passengers will be able to unbuckle their seatbelts, see Earth’s curvature and float around the cabin. The cost? $200,000 per person.

It may seem like a hefty price tag, Jackson says, but for many, it represents the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream. About 500 people have already signed up. “Space travel is something a lot of people have dreamed of since childhood and to be able to be a part of making that happen is really exciting,” he says.