Lifestyle & Belief

Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to carry private satellites


Virgin Galactic unveils its new SpaceShipTwo spacecraft at the Mojave Spaceport on December 7, 2009 near Mojave, California. Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Galactic, unveiled the companies plans for a satellite launcher.


David McNew

Virgin Galactic, the company started by UK billionaire Richard Branson, announced that it is pushing ahead with its small satellite launch system, BBC News reported. 

At a special media event Branson told the BBC, "I believe this vehicle will create a long overdue shake-up of the whole satellite industry, disrupting current norms and limitations in exactly the way that SpaceShipTwo has for human space travel and space-based science research."

George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, told the Wall Street Journal that their launcher will be the affordable solution to all your satellite launching needs. Any small satellites can be sent into space using the carrier system known as LauncherOne. The transport will be up to five times cheaper than current prices, coming in at just under $10 million. 

The price reduction comes from its ability to launch satellites from midair, rather than from the ground as traditional satellite launches do. 

According to the LA Times, the process works by attaching a satellite to a rocket that is attached to the wings of a White Knight aircraft -- which resembles a massive flying catamaran because each has two fuselages -- flown to 50,000 feet and "dropped like a bomb." noted that this isn't Branson's first attempt at orbital exploration. He is also the owner of SpaceShipTwo which is a manned spacecraft designed to fly two pilots and six passengers on short suborbital spaceflights that reach more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth. The flight offers a few minutes of weightlessness and then return to a runway landing. Tickets for SpaceShipTwo flights cost $200,000. 

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