LauncherOne’s Long & Winding Road to Orbit: A Timeline

LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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.


Virgin Galactic Focused on Larger Satellite Launch Vehicle

Artist's conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Artist’s conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.


NovaWurks and Spaceflight Services Announce Launch Contract For Payload Test Bed Mission in Fall 2017

SHERPA (Spaceflight Inc.)
SHERPA (Credit: Spaceflight Inc.)

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. & SEATTLE, June 24, 2015 (NovaWurks/Spaceflight Services PR)NovaWurks™ Inc. and Spaceflight Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Spaceflight Industries, Inc. offering commercial rideshare launch services, today announced  a signed launch contract for a NovaWurks Payload Test Bed (PTB) mission planned for the third quarter of 2017. PTB-2, the second of the company’s Payload Test Bed missions, is scheduled to launch into a sun-synchronous orbit on Spaceflight’s SHERPA in-space transportation platform aboard a U.S. commercial launch vehicle.

Flown on NovaWurks’ Hyper-Integrated Satlet (HISat™) enabled satellite bus, the PTB-2 mission will carry customer demonstration payloads, experiments or subsystems to enable organizations to test capabilities in space at a fraction of the cost of dedicated missions. The PTB-2 mission will provide hosting services such as power, attitude control and communications for up to 75 kg of customer payloads.


Spaceflight Industries Raises $20 Million to Accelerate Growth

spaceflight_logoRRE Venture Capital and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital Co-Lead Investment in Future Expansion of Next-Generation Space Services Company

SEATTLE, March 11, 2015 (Spaceflight Industries PR) – Spaceflight Industries, a next-generation, integrated space products and services company aimed at transforming the use of space, today announced it has secured $20 million in Series B funding co-led by RRE Venture Capital and Vulcan Capital with additional investment from Razor’s Edge Ventures.

Spaceflight Industries (Spaceflight) is the parent company of two well-established Seattle-area aerospace and space logistics companies: Andrews Space and Spaceflight Services. These businesses have now been combined under the Spaceflight brand to form a consolidated space products and services company focused on enabling new applications through the commercialization of space. This funding will accelerate the ongoing growth and development of Spaceflight’s subsidiaries: Spaceflight Systems (formerly Andrews Space), Spaceflight Services and Spaceflight Networks, which together provide comprehensive, cost-effective small-satellite solutions and services from development to launch, communications and operations.


Spaceflight Offers First Deep Space Rideshare Opportunity

SEATTLE (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight is proud to announce the first ever commercial rideshare opportunity to deep space in Q3 2016. We are manifesting customers up to 300 kilograms on a commercial Earth Escape mission. With positive C3, we will be able to launch the first CubeSats and SmallSats outside of low Earth orbit.

For this specific mission, our pricing is:


For our standard pricing, please visit our website pricing, or contact us at if you have any further questions on this launch opportunity.

Phil Brzytwa & The Spaceflight Team

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Announces New Members

Washington D.C.
(CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced today that several companies have joined the organization.

“Interest and activity in commercial spaceflight continue to blossom at both traditional and new space companies,” said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “It is very satisfying to see the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s membership expand to include such a preponderance of the players in the commercial space panorama.”


Rocket City Space Pioneers Offer “Rideshare” Services to Space, Moon

RCSP PR – Colorado Springs, Colo. (April 12, 2011) – The Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP), a team of Alabama-based industry leaders and educational partners, are selling payload rides to Earth orbit, as well as to the Moon, at approximately half the cost of a dedicated launch.

“The Rocket City Space Pioneers, through our partner Spaceflight Services, are providing low-cost access to space for fixed and deployable cargo and spacecraft,” said Tim Pickens, team leader. “Through standard flight interfaces and a streamlined integration process, we can take your payload to the Moon at half the cost of traditional services!”


Spaceflight Services Teams Up With Dutch Company

A CubeSat

Spaceflight Services (Spaceflight) and Innovative Space Logistics BV (ISILaunch) announced today that they have teamed to create a global spaceflight services provider for small and secondary payloads.

Spaceflight and ISILaunch currently offer spaceflight services on a variety of orbital and suborbital vehicles for small and secondary payloads, with operations centered in the United States (US) and Europe respectively. Under this joint marketing agreement Spaceflight and ISILaunch will provide a global spaceflight service for the launch of small and secondary payloads by jointly marketing a combined set of products and services to prospective customers.

Need a Ride to Orbit? Call Spaceflight Services


Spaceflight Services (Spaceflight) announced its participation in the Rocket City Space Pioneers Google Lunar X-Prize Team. Responsible for mission integration and providing space transportation services to Low Lunar Orbit, Spaceflight is also offering flight opportunities for small payloads to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and Low Lunar Orbit (LLO).


Andrews Space Subsidiary to Market Payload Services for DragonLab

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

Aviation Week reports that Andrews Space has formed a subsidiary to handle payload services for upcoming SpaceX’s DragonLab flights:

A service company focused on providing routine low cost space access for small payloads has been formed by Andrews Space. SpaceFlight Services is kicking off its business venture by signing an agreement with Space Exploration (SpaceX) to manifest payloads using excess capability on upcoming Falcon 9/Dragon missions. SpaceFlight says under this deal customers will have access to multiple scheduled flight opportunities including dedicated scientific free-flyer missions using SpaceX’s DragonLab variant of the Dragon vehicle.