Virgin Galactic gets a 747 jet to serve as flying launch pad for its LauncherOne rocket
Science & Technology

Virgin Galactic gets a 747 jet to serve as flying launch pad for its LauncherOne rocket

Virgin Galactic confirmed off its newest mothership right now: a Boeing 747-400 jet that it acquired from its company cousins at Virgin Atlantic to serve as the platform for its LauncherOne rocket.

LauncherOne is designed to be launched from a high-flying provider airplane and ship small-scale satellites into orbit. It should use a liquid-fueled engine called Newton, which remains to be below improvement. The launch system is predicted to be in operation by 2018, and it’s already been tapped by OneWeb to assist put a world Web constellation into orbit.

It was beforehand thought that LauncherOne would use Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo provider airplane. That’s the mothership getting used for SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered passenger area airplane. However Virgin Galactic mentioned the 747 was extra suited for LauncherOne’s upgraded payload capability and flight charge.

The jet, delivered to Virgin in 2001 and nicknamed “Cosmic Girl,” was beforehand utilized in industrial service. The repurposed airplane was unveiled right now in San Antonio. In its new incarnation, it is going to retain the Cosmic Woman mascot that’s additionally used on WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo.

“I’m completely thrilled that Cosmic Woman can keep within the Virgin household — and really stay up to her identify,” Virgin founder Richard Branson mentioned in a news release.

The shift to a 747 frees up WhiteKnightTwo to be used completely for SpaceShipTwo flights, the corporate mentioned.

The primary SpaceShipTwo was destroyed in October 2014 throughout a take a look at flight during which the co-pilot was killed and the pilot was severely injured. An investigation traced the cause of that tragedy to a mixture of human error, tools design, coaching lapses and regulatory gaps. A second SpaceShipTwo is at present below building, with flight assessments anticipated to start subsequent 12 months.

Ultimately, SpaceShipTwo is due to carry passengers to the sting of outer area. About 700 clients have signed up to date, paying as a lot as $250,000 per seat. Within the wake of final 12 months’s accident, Virgin Galactic has shied away from predicting the time-frame for the beginning of economic operations.

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