We’re building rockets that will launch the small satellite revolution
While every other gadget in our lives has gotten smaller, lighter, and cheaper, satellite technology spent decades after the launch of Sputnik and Explorer I getting bigger, heavier, and more expensive. But recently, the rise of cubesats and microsatellites has meant that at last, commercial satellite start-ups, universities, schools, and even crowdfunding campaigns can put their own satellites into space. However, small satellites need small satellite launch vehicles—after all, small satellites cannot truly change the world without cost-effective, frequent rides to space!
Most of the small and microsatellites that have already reached space have done so by “hitchhiking” — catching a ride on someone else’s big, expensive rocket. Hitchhiking to space has real drawbacks: just like hitchhiking here on Earth, when you leave and where you get dropped off aren’t your decisions to make, there are very strict rules about what you can and can’t do during the ride. Those restrictions may be fine if your only goal is to prove that your satellite works in space, but if you are trying to build a business or accomplish a mission, you need your own ride, to the right destination and at the right price.
The makers, builders, and satellite entrepreneurs have done their part. It’s time for the rockets to do theirs. It’s time for LauncherOne.
At Virgin Galactic, we are leveraging our work building our human spaceflight program and our team’s extensive background in low-cost launch systems to create LauncherOne, an orbital launch vehicle dedicated to the small satellite market. Already, our world-class team of 150 experienced professionals are hard at work in our 150,000 square foot manufacturing and design facility, helping make this system a reality. We’ve built and tested real hardware, acquired a 747-400 to serve as our dedicated carrier aircraft, and signed up both commercial and government customers to real launch contracts. With real hardware built and real results achieved, we are well on our way towards a vehicle that will meet our customers’ needs for launch reliability, availability and flexibility, at a commercial price they can afford.
LauncherOne customers will use their satellites to conduct a staggering array of missions. Some will further the exploration of space, others will directly focus on improving life here on Earth. Already, satellite manufacturers have presented plans to use LauncherOne to launch missions to provide broadband internet to billions of people who are currently without internet access, to take pictures of the Earth for humanitarian causes, to collect more accurate weather measurements, to hunt for asteroids that could represent threats and opportunities to our home planet, and to launch many other types of satellites. We’re convinced that the types of missions are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.