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Former Virgin Galactic Test Pilot Heads to Blue Origin

Mark "Forger" Stucky was the lead test pilot for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic for six years.

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Mark “Forger” Stucky was the lead test pilot for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic for six years and piloted the first flight on the company’s SpaceShipTwo, which reached the edge of space in 2018. Now, he’s headed to work for the space flight company’s competitor, Blue Origin. 

Jim Watson | Getty Images

Stucky told CNN earlier this week that he was fired from Virgin Galactic and will join Blue Origin’s “Advanced Development Programs” team.

He said he will "do my best to contribute to [CEO Jeff Bezos'] amazing vision of humans not just having a continuous presence in space but truly becoming a space-faring species."

Related: Virgin Galactic Stock Falls After Delayed Flights

He confirmed on LinkedIn in July that he and Virgin Galactic parted ways after 12 years, writing, “If life throws you lemons then maybe it’s time to learn to juggle.” He told CNN he believes his termination was related to his participation in the book Test Gods, in which he revealed details of past space flights. He’s since been more vocal about his criticisms of Virgin Galactic on social media. 

When it was revealed in September that Branson’s space flight from earlier this summer did not take the correct trajectory, Stucky tweeted, “The most misleading statement today was @virgingalactic’s. The facts are the pilots failed to trim to achieve the proper pitch rate, the winds were well within limits, they did nothing of substance to address the trajectory error, & entered Class A airspace without authorization.”

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded the company during a related investigation, then cleared it for flight earlier this month. Per Virgin Galactic, the corrective actions the company proposed were accepted by the FAA.

They include updated calculations to expand the protected airspace for future flights as well as additional steps into the company’s flight procedures that will ensure real-time mission notifications to FAA Air Traffic Control.

Related: Jeff Bezos and Girlfriend Lauren Sanchez Go on a Romantic Trip After Blue Origin's Historic Flight