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Space Science

Virgin Galactic Announces New Satellite Launch Vehicle 102

An anonymous reader writes "Virgin Galactic has announced a new craft called LauncherOne, which it will use to put satellites into orbit. 'It appears to leverage some of the hardware already developed for SpaceShipTwo, Virgin's suborbital tourist vehicle. Like SpaceShipTwo, the new rocket rides up underneath Virgin's big carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, to about 50,000 feet. After release, the rocket drops for approximately four seconds before the first stage ignites. After the first stage burns out, a second stage takes the satellite to orbit.' Launching from a moving airplane eliminates many cost and scheduling concerns inherent to ground-based launches, and it's much easier to reach a broad range of trajectories for putting objects into orbit. According to the press release, LauncherOne will get objects up to 225kg into orbit for less than $10 million."
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Virgin Galactic Announces New Satellite Launch Vehicle

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  • by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:18PM (#40640489) Homepage
    I suspect Branson's focused on building an infrastructure with common parts. Having suborbital crew (for tourism or research), LEO cargo, and eventually orbital crew with a lot of common components would be a very good foundation for a profitable, ongoing company. He doesn't have to beat every competitor in every sub-market in order to do quite well.
  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:21PM (#40640517)

    But to pay for it all, he's got to win cargo launch business first.

    He's a brave man all right.

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:28PM (#40640589)

    I certainly did. People with expensive payloads are not that sensitive to price. They ARE however, quite sensitive to getting their stuff to orbit in one piece. Something that Branson has so far failed to demonstrate.

  • Calculate this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:36PM (#40640667) Journal

    Say you got a 200kg sattelite you want in orbit. How do you get it to launch on a normal rocket? Not alone for sure, it may be the same kilo price but those rockets are not going to go up for just you. Which means you got to fit yourself around the schedules and requirements of others. Want an odd orbit? Sorry, our rocket ain't going there.

    Sending cargo by ocean vessel is insanely cheap. Pity if you got a parcel to be delivered to Switzerland. The right vehicle, at the right cost.

    Lets just assume for a second that a self-made billionaire knows more about making money then all of slashdot put together.

  • by aquabat ( 724032 ) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:53PM (#40640871) Journal
    Yeah, it must really suck to be Richard Branson, always having really cool Ideas and then going out and making them happen. I wish I was that nuts.
  • Carry an X-37? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xanthos ( 73578 ) <<xanthos> <at> <>> on Friday July 13, 2012 @02:40PM (#40641361)

    Dug around in Wikipedia a little and found that White Knight 2 has a carrying capacity of 35,000 lbs (~16k kilos). The X-37B is listed at 11,000 (5k) fully loaded, the crewcab version X-37C should be under 25,000 and even the old pre-composite X-15 was 34,000(15.4k). Now the X-15 was far shy of orbital velocity, but rocket design has advanced some in the 40+ years since the end of the program and building a standby vehicle for quick launch to orbit might be getting feasible.

    I, like many, have mourned the decline of manned space exploration. However, I see the work of Virgin Galactec and SpaceX as reasons to hope that not all is dead.

    Maybe the parts are coming together.


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