Virgin Galactic unveils satellite launcher

Virgin Galactic has unveiled ‘LauncherOne’, a new air-launched rocket specifically designed to deliver small satellites into orbit.

According to the company, ‘LauncherOne’, which was revealed that the Farnborough Airshow today (Wednesday 11 July), has already generated interest from several customers, which have expressed their intent to purchase “several dozen” launches.

LauncherOne
LauncherOne

“Virgin Galactic’s goal is to revolutionise the way we get to space,” said the company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. “I’m immensely proud of what we have already achieved as we draw near to regular suborbital flights on SpaceShipTwo. Now, LauncherOne is bringing the price of satellite launch into the realm of affordability for innovators everywhere, from start-ups and schools to established companies and national space agencies. It will be a critical new tool for the global research community, enabling us all to learn about our home planet more quickly and affordably.”

LauncherOne will be a two-stage vehicle capable of carrying up to 225kg to orbit for prices less than US$10 million. The rocket will be launched from Virgin Galactic’s ‘WhiteKnightTwo’ shuttle. Virgin said that companies would benefit from “reduced infrastructure costs” and a “wide range of possible launch locations”.

“Virgin Galactic continues to innovate space access, and LauncherOne is a key step in its successful commercialisation,” said Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of aabar Investments PJS, which is partnering Virgin Galactic. “This development promises to redefine the small satellite market and to promote new research and education opportunities. aabar is proud to be partnering in this exciting journey by continuing to support Virgin Galactic and its initiatives.”

Customers include Skybox Imaging, a Silicon Valley-based firm specialising in high-resolution imaging, GeoOptics Inc, which is developing a constellation of non-imaging remote sensing satellites, Spaceflight Inc, the aggregator and integrator of small satellites, and Planetary Resources Inc, an asteroid mining venture.

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