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Fri, May 19, 2017

Virgin Group Introduces Virgin Orbit

Satellite Launch Company Nearly Ready To Begin Operations, Company Says

Virgin Group has announced Virgin Orbit, a company with a business model of launching small satellites into orbit using a horizontal launch system.

On a new website, Virgin Orbit says it is in the final stages of testing and preparation for LauncherOne, a two-stage, expendable, LOX/RP-1 rocket that launches from our mobile air launch pad, a dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft, called Cosmic Girl.

Cosmic Girl will carry LauncherOne to at an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet before release for its rocket-powered flight to orbit. Starting each mission with an airplane rather than a traditional groundbased launch pad offers performance benefits in terms of payload capacity, but more importantly, air-launch offers an unparalleled level of flexibility.

LauncherOne will operate from a variety of locations independently of traditional launch ranges—which are often congested with traffic—and will have the ability to operate through or around weather conditions and other impediments that delay traditional launches.

Once released from the carrier aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket fires up its single main stage engine, a 73,500 lbf, LOX/RP-1 rocket engine called the “NewtonThree.” Typically, this engine will fire for approximately three minutes. After stage separation, the single upper stage engine, a 5,000 lbf LOX/RP-1 rocket engine called the “NewtonFour” will carry the satellite(s) into orbit. Typically, the second stage will execute multiple burns totaling nearly six minutes.

At the end of this sequence, LauncherOne will deploy our customers’ satellite (or satellites) into their desired orbit. Both stages of LauncherOne will be safely deorbited, while the carrier aircraft will return to a predetermined airport, where it can be quickly prepared for its next flight.

LauncherOne is capable of delivering 660 pounds to a 310-mile Sun-Synchronous Orbit.

LauncherOne has been built from a blend of classic, proven techniques and tailored high-tech investments, according to Virgin Orbit. Both the NewtonThree and the NewtonFour are highly reliable liquid rocket engines designed, tested, and built by Virgin Orbit. The company says it is at the forefront of hybrid manufacturing, automated flight safety systems, composite structures, and ultra-responsive launch operations—cutting edge developments that allow us to offer unparalleled service to the small satellite market.

(Source: Virgin Orbit website. Images from file)

FMI: virginorbit.com

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