The hidden side of politics

Virgin Orbit Just Dropped a Rocket From a Boeing 747

Reported by WIRED:

On Wednesday morning, a rather unusual plane could be seen flying high over Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. Unlike the military aircraft endemic to the area, this was a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, its bright red tail emblazoned with a single word: VIRGIN. A 70-foot rocket was strapped beneath its left wing and about 30 minutes after takeoff, jet pilot Kelly Latimer released the rocket and sent it careening to the desert floor 35,000 feet below.

Although the rocket was “fully loaded,” as the company put it, its engines never fired—nor were they meant to. Instead, the rocket fell freely to Earth so the company could see how it performed during its first few seconds of freefall. This was the last major test for Virgin Orbit’s air-launch system, which will launch rockets from a gutted jumbo jet, known as Cosmic Girl, to boost small satellites into orbit. It’s a complicated maneuver, but it could significantly reduce the costs of getting to space.

A large fraction of a vertically launched rocket’s mass is fuel, most of which is needed to fight atmospheric drag and Earth’s gravity near the surface. Having a plane carry a rocket to high altitudes can conserve much of that fuel. Unlike rockets, planes don’t require an oxidizer to fly to high altitudes, which also helps cut down on the rocket’s mass and reduces the cost of an orbital launch. Indeed, Virgin estimates that a ride to orbit on its LauncherOne rocket will only cost about $12 million, which is almost pocket change in the space industry.

The advantages of an air-launch system have been known for decades, but only recently has the space industry started to show interest in the concept. The exception is Orbital ATK, which became the first company to use an air-launched rocket to deliver a satellite to orbit in 1990 and continues to use that system to this day. The last decade has seen a resurgence of interest in the concept, attracting new space companies like Stratolaunch, XCOR, and Generation Orbit, as well as old guard contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Even SpaceX briefly flirted with the idea of an air-launch system for a modified Falcon 9 rocket before abandoning the project in 2012. But among the new guard, only Virgin has brought its air-launch system to fruition.

Virgin Orbit

Now that Virgin Orbit has successfully completed its drop test, the next step will be a test launch to orbit, which could occur as early as this fall. If that is successful, Virgin Orbit will officially open for business as the newest entrant in the increasingly crowded small launch market. It looks like Virgin Orbit will have no problem attracting customers. It has already inked launch deals worth $400 million with organizations like OneWeb, NASA, and the US Air Force. Unlike SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rockets can boost up to 50,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket is limited to payloads weighing 660 pounds or less. This is slightly more payload mass than the current leader in the small launch market, Rocket Lab, whose Electron rocket is suited to carry satellites weighing up to 500 pounds.

Virgin Orbit is one of three space companies owned by billionaire Richard Branson. In 2017, Virgin Orbit was spun off from Virgin Galactic, which focuses on space tourism. The company made history last December when it became the first company to fly a private passenger to space onboard a rocket plane manufactured by Branson’s other space venture, the Spaceship Company.

Branson’s journey to space has been a long one. He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 and had initially expected commercial flights to begin in 2009, but technical problems and manufacturing issues kept pushing the schedule back. In 2014, its rocket-powered space plane exploded during flight, killing one of the two test pilots on board. Powered flight tests only resumed in April 2018, but by the end of the year two Virgin pilots had earned their astronaut wings when they flew the plane to an altitude of 51.4 miles—just beyond the boundary of space. Since then, three other Virgin crew members have also made it to space.

Branson’s perseverance looks like it may finally pay off. Earlier this week, he announced that Virgin Galactic was merging with Social Capital Hedosophia, a partnership between two venture capital firms. The motivation for the merger, Branson tweeted, is to become the “first ever publicly listed human spaceflight company.” Initial estimates valued the combined company at around $1.5 billion. Taken together with the burgeoning market for small launch vehicles, Branson may soon be rolling in cosmic cash.


More Great WIRED Stories

Source:WIRED

Share

39 Comments

  1. Megan Newman Reply

    Yet another thing I would like to talk about is that rather than trying to suit all your online degree training on days and nights that you conclude work (as most people are exhausted when they return), try to find most of your sessions on the saturdays and sundays and only 1 or 2 courses for weekdays, even if it means a little time away from your weekend break. This is beneficial because on the saturdays and sundays, you will be far more rested and also concentrated for school work. Thanks for the different recommendations I have figured out from your blog.

  2. Dan McGrath Reply

    I just wanted to construct a quick message to say thanks to you for these wonderful guidelines you are giving out at this site. My particularly long internet research has at the end been rewarded with extremely good points to share with my friends and family. I would believe that many of us visitors are extremely lucky to exist in a great network with so many brilliant people with very helpful things. I feel really lucky to have encountered the web page and look forward to many more exciting times reading here. Thank you once more for all the details.

  3. Harry Parsons Reply

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day. It will always be exciting to read content from other writers and use a little something from their sites.

  4. Lillian Sutherland Reply

    A motivating discussion is worth comment. I do think that you need to write more on this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but usually people do not talk about such topics. To the next! Many thanks!!

  5. Joshua Powell Reply

    I haven’t checked in here for a while since I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are really great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend. 🙂

  6. Isaac Payne Reply

    I have learned some new things by your website. One other thing I’d like to say is newer laptop or computer operating systems often allow a lot more memory to be played with, but they in addition demand more memory space simply to work. If someone’s computer cannot handle far more memory and the newest application requires that memory space increase, it could be the time to buy a new PC. Thanks

  7. Anthony Clark Reply

    Thanks for this wonderful article. Also a thing is that almost all digital cameras are available equipped with a new zoom lens that enables more or less of that scene for being included simply by ‘zooming’ in and out. These kind of changes in focus length are usually reflected inside the viewfinder and on large display screen right on the back of the actual camera.

  8. Sally Anderson Reply

    Many thanks for this article. I might also like to express that it can possibly be hard if you find yourself in school and just starting out to establish a long credit history. There are many scholars who are simply trying to endure and have a good or favourable credit history can be a difficult point to have.

  9. Joshua Butler Reply

    Thank you, I’ve just been looking for info approximately this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve came upon so far. But, what concerning the conclusion? Are you sure in regards to the supply?

  10. Steven Edmunds Reply

    If you are paying attention to learn Search engine optimization methods then you should read this article, I am sure you will obtain much more from this piece of writing concerning Search engine optimization.

  11. Colin Buckland Reply

    Oh my goodness! an incredible article dude. Thank you Nonetheless I am experiencing concern with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting identical rss downside? Anyone who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

  12. Carol Marshall Reply

    I’ve learned some new things via your website. One other thing I would really like to say is the fact that newer laptop or computer operating systems often allow far more memory to use, but they as well demand more memory space simply to operate. If people’s computer is unable to handle far more memory plus the newest software package requires that memory increase, it could be the time to shop for a new PC. Thanks

  13. Amanda Payne Reply

    Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, superb site!

  14. Michelle McLean Reply

    I’ve learned a number of important things via your post. I might also like to mention that there can be situation that you will get a loan and do not need a cosigner such as a National Student Aid Loan. But when you are getting credit through a conventional banker then you need to be made ready to have a cosigner ready to help you. The lenders will certainly base any decision over a few factors but the most significant will be your credit history. There are some loan merchants that will in addition look at your work history and choose based on this but in many instances it will hinge on your ranking.

  15. Lisa Wallace Reply

    I simply wanted to appreciate you once more. I do not know what I would have made to happen without those creative ideas provided by you concerning my topic. It was an absolute frustrating matter in my view, but seeing your professional strategy you processed that took me to weep with delight. Now i’m happy for your service and thus have high hopes you are aware of a powerful job you’re getting into teaching many people through your web blog. Most probably you haven’t met any of us.

  16. Sonia Hemmings Reply

    One thing is the fact one of the most common incentives for using your card is a cash-back as well as rebate provision. Generally, you will get 1-5 back on various purchases. Depending on the cards, you may get 1 back on most acquisitions, and 5 back on buying made using convenience stores, filling stations, grocery stores as well as ‘member merchants’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FOLLOW @ NATIONAL HILL