Virgin Galactic chief to head Australian Space Agency

A senior executive from Richard Branson’s commercial spaceflight company will take up a new role as head of the Australian Space Agency.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the appointment of Perth-born Virgin Galactic COO Enrico Palermo on Friday.

Enrico Palermo

Mr Palermo will return from the US to Australia to replace the space agency’s inaugural head Dr Megan Clark, who will finish in the role at the end of December.

Mr Palermo, who graduated from the University of Western Australia, has worked extensively in the space industry over the past two decades in the UK and the US, including as President of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing organisation.

Mr Morrison said Mr Palermo will be tasked with helping Australia reach its goal of becoming a major player in the international space industry.

“By 2030, we want to triple the size of our space sector,”  Mr Morrison said.

Science minister Karen Andrews said Mr Palermo’s background in engineering, commercialisation and innovation would provide strong leadership and direction for the Agency.

“Mr Palermo’s skill set reflects the reality of the space sector, which is about so much more than just research or launch – it improves life on earth and creates opportunities in a range of areas including manufacturing,” Minister Andrews said.

“The Australian space sector continues to expand at the speed of light, and I look forward to working closely with Mr Palermo to capitalise on the opportunities for Australian businesses and manufacturers in the space industry.

Mr Palermo said he said he looked forward to growing and transforming the Australian space industry.

Dr Clark will commence as the Chair of the Australian Space Agency Advisory Board in the New Year.

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