The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.
Virgin Orbit has received a Department of Defense (DOD) launch contract for its LauncherOne booster, the company announced this week.
“Their Space Test Program will fly some technology development payloads on our rocket as early as January 2019,” the company announced on Twitter.
LauncherOne will be air-launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner. The first flight test is expected to occur in 2018.
The contract, which came through the VOX Space subsidiary that handles government work, came through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).
“We provide non-dilutive capital in the form of pilot contracts for commercial innovation that solves Dept. of Defense (DoD) problems. And we do so quickly, usually in under 90 days,” according to DIUx’s website. “Pilot contracts can include hardware, software, or unique services. More importantly, after a successful pilot, the company involved and any DoD entity can easily enter into follow-on contracts, just as fast.”
DIUx has also provided capital to two other space companies: Capella Space, a satellite company that uses synthetic aperture radar to provide Earth imagery that is based on Palo Alto, Calif.; and Orbital Insight, which provides geospatial data analytics that is based in Moutain View, Calif.
Video Caption: On July 31, 2017 Virgin Orbit’s 747-400 named Cosmic Girl, touched down for the first time in Long Beach Airport. For our airport neighbors, it was a rare sighting of a 747 — and a mobile rocket launcher at that. For Virgin Orbit employees and supporters, including Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, the homecoming marked the completion of significant modification work that enables her to launch rockets for our satellite customers.
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It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
HUNTSVILLE, AL, February 15, 2012 (Stratolaunch PR) – Today Stratolaunch systems closed on purchase of the first of two Boeing 747-400 aircraft that are being purchased from United Airlines.
Stratolaunch contractor Scaled Composites of Mojave California with support from their subcontractor BAE Systems has developed a complete plan for how the engines, landing gear, hydraulics and other subsystem components of these aircraft will be disassembled and reintegrated into a custom composite aircraft to be built by Scaled Composites in Stratolaunch’s new integration facility being built at the Mojave Air and Space Port.