Virgin Galactic: Space Tourism, World’s First Spaceline & Space Launch Operations
Virgin Galactic is comprised of hundreds of dedicated and passionate professionals — including rocket scientists, engineers, and designers from around the world—united in creating something new and lasting: the world’s first commercial spaceline. A spaceline for Earth. Our team brings decades of experience from organizations like NASA, traditional aerospace firms, and other Virgin companies.
We are here because we believe we are at the vanguard of a new space industry that is defining the future of exploration and that we will ultimately make space accessible to more people and for more purposes than ever before.
It is a large and difficult undertaking; but through our efforts, we believe we can help inspire future generations and make it possible to see the beautiful planet we call home from a new perspective.
Virgin Galactic – LauncherOne: The Small Satellite Revolution Is Here
Virgin Galactic Welcomes ‘Cosmic Girl’
To Space Access Vehicle Fleet
LaucherOne Program to use Dedicated 747-400 Aircraft to
Responsively Air-Launch Small Satellite Customer Payloads
San Antonio, TX – Virgin Galactic introduced the newest addition to its fleet of vehicles today as part of a technical update on its LauncherOne small satellite launch service. The 747-400 commercial jet aircraft, previously operated by Virgin Atlantic under the nickname Cosmic Girl, will provide a dedicated launch platform for the LauncherOne orbital vehicle. Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic engineers announced the acquisition of the aircraft while providing an update on LauncherOne development progress.
“Air launch enables us to provide rapid, responsive service to our satellite customers on a schedule set by their business and operational needs, rather than the constraints of national launch ranges,” said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO. “Selecting the 747 airframe provides a dedicated platform that gives us the capacity to substantially increase our payload to orbit without increasing our prices.”
In September, Virgin Galactic announced that in response to customer demand, it had doubled LauncherOne’s performance to 200kg into the standard Sun-Synchronous Orbit for a price below US$10 million, with the option to purchase further increases in performance to the same orbit and for launches that reach other altitudes or inclinations. The launch system is capable of launching over 400kg of payload to other orbits.
Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft will remain the mothership for SpaceShipTwo, enabling spaceship customers to enjoy a dedicated platform for suborbital spaceflight services out of Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The 747 is one of the most accomplished and reliable aircraft ever built. It has an established track record of supporting a variety of special missions, including the Space Shuttle Enterprise test flight program, NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft program, the Pratt and Whitney flying testbed, and flight test of the X-45 ‘Phantom Ray.’ The LauncherOne team described additional qualities that make the 747 ideal for the orbital launch platform mission: the aircraft’s large and robust rocket carrying capacity, operational flexibility, long range, ability to operate in many kinds of weather, as well as years of existing 747-400 experience, maintenance, and spare parts supply chains. The carrier aircraft can also be deployed from any runway capable of 747 operations.
Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson: “The Boeing 747 has a very special place in my heart: we began service on my first airline, Virgin Atlantic, with just one leased 747. I never imagined that today one of our 747s would get a second chance and help open access to space. I’m absolutely thrilled that Cosmic Girl can stay in the Virgin family —and truly live up to her name!”
The LauncherOne rocket will be mounted to the carrier aircraft under the left wing, adjacent to the position that has been used by other 747s to ferry a fifth engine. Initial inspections and tests of Cosmic Girl have already been completed and, prior to the start of the wing modification, a regularly scheduled maintenance check will be conducted by VT San Antonio Aerospace. A maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) organization, VT San Antonio Aerospace has over the years re-delivered more than 3,000 aircraft.
Virgin Galactic President Steve Isakowitz said, “2015 has been a year of incredible progress. Our LauncherOne team moved into a 150,000 square foot facility for design and manufacturing, grew to more than 150 dedicated staff, completed multiple long-duration hot fires of our liquid rocket engines, doubled the L1 payload capacity, and welcomed two game-changing customers from both new space and government, OneWeb and NASA. And now we have one of the world’s most trusted airplanes to serve as our fully reusable launch platform. With a dedicated air launch vehicle for LauncherOne, and WhiteKnightTwo dedicated specifically to SpaceShipTwo, we look forward to another year of hard work and achievements ahead.”
About Virgin Galactic:
Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline. Founded by Sir Richard Branson and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, Virgin Galactic will transform access to space for the benefit of life on Earth. Virgin Galactic is developing LauncherOne, an affordable dedicated ride to orbit for small satellites. As an air-launched rocket, LauncherOne is designed to provide commercial and government-built satellites a flexible launch service that meets each customer’s specific mission requirements.
LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and launches will be conducted by its dedicated 747-400 carrier from various locations. To date, 700 men and women from over 50 countries—greater than the total number of humans who have ever been to space—have reserved places to fly on Virgin Galactic’s reusable space launch system, consisting of carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo and spacecraft SpaceShipTwo. SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo are manufactured and tested in Mojave, California by its manufacturing wing, The Spaceship Company. Spaceflight operations will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.
Virgin Galactic – Introducing our Pilot Corps
NASA Announces Partnership With Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne
Last week, NASA announced that it had selected Virgin Galactic as a partner in its Collaborative Opportunities program. As part of this new partnership, NASA will provide Virgin Galactic with technical expertise and access to test facilities to aid the development of our LauncherOne small satellite launch service. Specifically, NASA’s Ames Research Center experts will provide analysis, simulation, and expertise related to LauncherOne’s concept of operations, aerodynamics system, thermal protection systems, and materials.
This announcement represents our third competitively-bid partnership with NASA; previously, NASA announced it has purchased flights on board both SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne, with which it will fly dozens of experiments and small satellites built by universities, start-ups, and government labs. While we are proud to be a privately-funded and commercially-operated business, we are also thrilled to be working with an organization as iconic and successful as NASA.
To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, for whom we have named our family of liquid-fuelled rocket engines, we are able to open the space frontier largely because we do so standing “on the shoulders of giants.” Thanks to NASA and other organizations that took the first pioneering steps in humanity’s exploration of the cosmos, new space companies such as Virgin Galactic and all our partners are now commercializing technologies that will open access to space for even more people.
Our hearty thanks go out to our colleagues at NASA, and our congratulations go to those other companies selected. You can read about all of NASA’s new partners here.
Virgin Galactic Is Creating The World’s First
Commercial Spaceline: A Spaceline For Earth
Virgin Galactic is part of an incredible story that has been thousands of years in the making, driven by the deeply human need to explore our universe, to innovate new and lasting technologies and to create a better future for our society and our planet.
The Virgin Galactic team with our Future Astronauts
To do this, we have assembled a global community of future astronauts that are proving that there is a robust market human spaceflight. We have also assembled a world class team of engineers, technicians, mission controllers, and many others who have spent their lives pushing the boundaries of technology and exploration. Our team is made up of established leaders from directly relevant programs, including:
- the team behind the $10M Ansari XPRIZE-winning SpaceShipOne;
- pilots from Royal Air Force, US Air Force, US Marine Corps and NASA Astronaut corps;
- aircraft experts from Lear, Cessna, Scaled Composites, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others;
- test and safety leadership from the US Air Force, United Airlines, and more;
- operational experts including a former NASA Space Shuttle Launch Director and NASA’s former International Space Station Assembly Manager.
Virgin Galactic’s dedication to finding the best people has resulted in a unique and colorful place with a deep sense of purpose along with a strong culture of safety and achievement. Our collective mission is to create the world’s first commercial spaceline, and as we do this, safety is our North Star. It is the thing that guides us as we strive to meet our goal of opening the space frontier. Safety is the responsibility of every single employee at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company. Each functional team has its own internal safety lead, and each group’s policies are overseen by our senior safety officers.
Our safety culture impacts much more than test flights. It informs how we operate on our manufacturing floor as we build SpaceShipTwos, WhiteKnightTwos, LauncherOnes, and all their constituent parts. It guides us as we conduct tests of the Newton liquid rocket engines that will one day power LauncherOne into orbit. Our aspirations reach toward the stars, but our culture is rooted in a dedication to safety for our team and our customers.
Virgin has always strove to create amazing experiences and space will be no exception. We are putting the Virgin touch into every aspect of our Spaceline–from the training, our fleet of spaceships, the interior cabin, and astronaut flight suits, all the way to the original architectural design and interior design of Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Our team is unified by the dream that, for the first time in human history, people all around the world will have the ability to go beyond our planet to experience the magic and majesty of space—to feel the freedom of weightlessness and see the Earth from a new perspective. We believe that it all starts with making space more accessible to countless more people than have ever been there before and inspiring and enabling a new generation to reach for the stars.
Future Astronauts, We Are A New And Global Group Of Space Explorers
For centuries, humans all around the world have dreamed of flying to space. For decades, people have been able to watch as others actually made those journeys, heroically opening a new frontier. Now, at last, space travel is open to all of us. It still requires time, resources, and effort, but for the first time in history, space exploration is a possibility for everyone who dares to dream of it.
The global group of Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts in many ways represents the most exciting club on Earth. Our Future Astronauts come from more than 50 nations around the world. More than half of those nations have never celebrated a space flight for one of their fellow citizens before; more than a dozen more nations will see their first woman travel to space. Our Future Astronauts span in age from under 10 to over 90. They come from diverse backgrounds. They practice many professions, and speak many languages.
Our Future Astronauts have formed an engaged, vibrant, and active community, united by a shared passion for the future of commercial space and an overwhelming desire to experience space for themselves as soon as is safely possible. Every member of this community receives privileged insider access to our program as it unfolds, as well as frequent opportunities to interact with each other through an incredible program of unique experiences and adventures, many enjoyed alongside our founder, Sir Richard Branson.
All of our astronauts will have an experience that is both fun and life-changing, but they are also doing something more. Our community of 700 Future Astronauts know that their participation in the earliest days of the world’s first spacemen is a unique opportunity. Not only will they be among the first humans ever to fly into space, they will also shape a pioneering program with a lasting legacy, one that will truly open the space frontier.
Like the earliest adopters of any other technological breakthrough, they are the pioneers who help further a new experience until it is truly affordable and open to all. They have also founded a charitable program called Galactic Unite to help the next generation of space pioneers. The power of this community has already changed lives, and each astronaut will continue to make a difference long after they have flown.
If you are interested in learning more about our Future Astronaut community, please leave your details here and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.