Ex-Virgin Galactic Chief Takes Top Job at Australian Space Agency

November 13, 2020 Updated: November 16, 2020

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has bolstered space sector ambitions with the appointment of Virgin Galactic’s Chief Operating Officer as the new head of the Australian Space Agency.

Perth native Enrico Palermo will replace inaugural boss Megan Clark to assist the Australian government’s aims to significantly grow its space industry with jobs and economic growth over the next 10 years.

Palermo returns to Australia after about two decades working in the UK and the United States, where he spent 14 years working for Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing organisation.

During his career with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Palermo was appointed founding president of The Spaceship Company (TSC), a manufacturing operation where he managed 700 engineers and technicians based in Mojave, California.

Morrison said Palermo’s extensive international experience and leadership will “rocket” Australia’s goal of becoming a major player in the international space industry.

“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,” Morrison said in a joint media release with Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews on Friday.

Andrews said Australia’s space sector is expanding “at the speed of light,” and anticipates Palermo’s skills will build on the opportunities for private enterprises in the space industry.

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

Epoch Times Photo
Sir Richard Branson during Australia’s first private sign up to become an astronaut at The Establishment Hotel in Sydney, Australia on Dec. 13, 2005. (Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)

Australia’s Ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos AO, also welcomed Palermo’s recruitment. He also credited Clark who will finish at the end of the year to become the chair of the space agency’s advisory board.

“Great appointment, Enrico Palermo exemplifies the depth of Aussie talent globally. The inaugural Director, the wise and indefatigable Megan Clark, has set up ASA for success, so glad she will remain involved in an advisory capacity,” Sinodinos wrote on Twitter.

While acknowledging the developments of the last two years, Palermo said he relishes the opportunity of moving to Adelaide where the agency is based.

“In its first two years, the Australian Space Agency has made significant progress and achieved many firsts,” he said. “I look forward to working with the agency team to continue the mission of growing and transforming Australia’s space industry.”