Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne Increases Payload Performance

 

Robust demand from the growing small satellite market has led Virgin Galactic to significantly increase the performance of its LauncherOne satellite launch service. Driven by strong commercial demand for a launch service that can reliably, affordably, and responsively launch small satellites, Virgin Galactic has nearly doubled the amount of payload that customers can deliver to orbit for the same price. For a price below US$10 million, LauncherOne will now be able to launch 200kg into the standard Sun-Synchronous Orbit.

Customers will also be able to purchase further increases in performance to the same orbit, as well as launches that reach other altitudes or inclinations. To lower LEO orbits, the system will be capable of launching over 400kg of payload. As an air-launched system, LauncherOne can optimize each mission to customer requirements by operating from any of a variety of launch sites independent from the fixed, often congested, launch ranges and corresponding real-time launch constraints such as weather. Virgin Galactic is in the final stages of acquiring a commercial aircraft to add to its air launch fleet, which includes WhiteKnightTwo, enabling both the increased payload capacity and significantly higher flight rate. The company expects to finalize the acquisition in the coming months.

With a dedicated carrier aircraft and strong technical results achieved in an intensive hardware component testing campaign that began in 2013, this performance increase has been achieved by increasing the tank sizing of the rocket, maintaining schedule and launch price while significantly increasing value to customers. With full, private funding already committed to the program, a dedicated and world-class team of 150 experienced aerospace professionals hard at work, and a state-of-the-art 150,000-square-foot manufacturing and design facility in Long Beach, California, LauncherOne remains on target to be the most flexible and responsive launch vehicle to offer affordable, dedicated launches to smaller satellites.

LauncherOne’s customer base includes firms such as global communications company OneWeb, which Virgin Galactic recently signed to one of the largest commercial launch orders in history for flights of its internet service satellites on LauncherOne.

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