MOJAVE, Calif. — Virgin Orbit’s first LauncherOne flight failed on Monday due to an anomaly in the booster’s first stage, marking a setback for Richard Branson’s effort to enter the booming small satellite launch industry.
Just completed the last hotfire of the NewtonThree engine we’ll use to fly to space next year! Demonstrating full thrust, gimbal and throttle range of this piece of flight hardware is the perfect way to close a year of incredible progress for our team. Here’s raw footage: pic.twitter.com/TblSacONPb
Video Caption: We are always excited to test our most powerful engine, the NewtonThree, for long duration. During this specific test, we completed a full ‘mission duty cycle’–a fancy way of saying that we fired the engine for as long as it would fire on a full flight to orbit. We also gimbaled the engine, meaning we changed the angle of thrust by several degrees during the course of the firing. The ability to gimbal is important, since that is one of the main ways a rocket ‘steers’ on its way to space!
As a reminder: our LauncherOne rocket has two rocket engines on board: a single NewtonThree on the main stage and a single NewtonFour on the upper stage. You can see a full duration NewtonFour firing here: https://youtu.be/AGZF4o-gwHk
Video Caption: LauncherOne is powered by two rocket engines—a single NewtonThree on the main stage and a single NewtonFour on the upper stage. Both engines are turbopump-fed, gas generator cycle, LOX/RP-1 engines developed in-house here at Virgin Orbit. In this test, the rocket engine gimbals–in other words, it pivots–over a large range of motion. In flight, gimbaling allows the rocket engine to change the direction of thrust–and thereby steer the rocket. We’ve added a diagram on the left hand side of the screen to show the orientation of the engine throughout the test.
Video Caption: LauncherOne is powered by two rocket engines—a single NewtonThree on the main stage and a single NewtonFour on the upper stage. Both engines are turbopump-fed, gas generator cycle, LOX/RP-1 engines developed in-house here at Virgin Orbit. Here’s a typical test of the NewtonFour on our test stand up in Mojave, CA, in which the engine runs for a full six minutes—the same duration it would run during a full orbital launch. By popular demand, we’re posting this in real time–all six minutes of rockety goodness!
Video Caption: Video showing a recent test of Virgin Galactic’s NewtonThree rocket engine. A single NewtonThree rocket engine will power the first stage of LauncherOne, Virgin Galactic’s orbital small satellite launch vehicle. In this test, conducted in Mojave, California, the NewtonThree engine fires for ninety seconds.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., October 14, 2015 (Virgin Galactic PR) – US space agency NASA announced today that it has awarded commercial spaceline Virgin Galactic a $4.7 million contract for the launch of more than a dozen cutting-edge experimental satellites. The satellites, which will be selected and provided by NASA, will fly on a test flight of Virgin Galactic’s dedicated small satellite launch vehicle, LauncherOne.
If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about four years from 2013 to 2017.
Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.
Greetings from Mojave. I had hoped to be greeting you from Las Cruces from the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS — pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Is-pic-us). But, my plans to leave one desert town to travel across vast stretches of desert to a larger desert town didn’t work out this year. (I don’t know why; it sounded like so much fun.)
MOJAVE, Calif., September 28, 2015 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Successful test firings of key propulsion components marked the latest sign of progress for Virgin Galactic’s dedicated small satellite launch vehicle, LauncherOne. Working on custom-built test stands at the company’s Mojave, California location, Virgin Galactic engineers and technicians achieved longer duration, steady-state firings of LauncherOne’s main stage engine in the same week as multiple full duration firings of the gas generator for LauncherOne’s upper stage engine.
Virgin Galactic is developing a rocket more powerful than LauncherOne to fulfill a recent order for 39 launches from its global satellite Internet partner OneWeb, according to sources familiar with the program.
LauncherTwo will use Virgin Galactic’s largest liquid fuel engine, NewtonThree, in its first stage, according to sources that insisted upon anonymity. A new engine, NewtonFour, will be developed for the second stage.