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Virgin Galactic COO to head up Australian Space Agency

Charbel Kadib

The federal government has appointed Virgin Galactic’s chief operating officer to serve as head of the Australian Space Agency, replacing Dr Megan Clark.

Virgin Galactic COO to head up Australian Space Agency
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Enrico Palermo, Virgin Galactic’s chief operating officer (COO), has been appointed as head of the Australian Space Agency.

Palermo has held several roles in the space industry over the course of two decades, including a stint as president of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing organisation.

The new appointee will replace Dr Megan Clark, who will conclude her tenure in December, before assuming the role as chair of the agency’s advisory board in January 2021.

Following the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked Dr Clark for her service and welcomed Palermo to the new role, stating he is well placed to drive the agency’s growth strategy.

“Mr Palermo’s leadership will rocket Australia toward our goal of becoming a major player in the international space industry, while providing benefits across our economy,” the Prime Minister said.

“By 2030, we want to triple the size of our space sector – adding $12 billion to our economy and creating up to 20,000 new, high-skilled jobs.

“I extend my deepest thanks to Dr Clark who has led the agency from its infancy in 2018 and set a clear path forward.” 

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews added that Palermo’s qualifications in engineering, commercialisation and innovation complement the agency’s agenda.

“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 economic benefits of space exploration are vast, with highly skilled jobs right along the supply chain from manufacturing to robotics, engineering, and resources.

“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.”

Minister Andrews concluded, “I know he will build on the solid foundation of Dr Clark, who saw the agency through lift-off – establishing the agency headquarters in Adelaide, modernising the space legislation framework to ensure safe operations and securing agreements with international space agencies and companies.”

Palermo lauded the accomplishments of the agency in recent years, adding, “I look forward to working with the agency team to continue the mission of growing and transforming Australia’s space industry.”

[Related: Australian Space Agency launches Moon to Mars Demonstrator grant program]

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