Thursday, October 15, 2015

Virgin Galactic Test Fires New Rocket Engines

Still from the test footage. Photo: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has released video of it test firing engines for its new space craft which it hopes will launch small satellites into orbit. The company has been testing its new rocket engines that will deliver satellites into space, and wants everyone to know things are going well. Recent test footage uploaded to the company's YouTube account shows the NewtonThree rocket engine firing for over a minute in a blistering blast of flames. This rocket engine is one of the key propulsion components in LauncherOne - Virgin Galactic’s dedicated small satellite launch vehicle. The main stage engine provides a 73,500 lbf thrust.

"Recently, we shared a video showing a recent test of the NewtonThree rocket engine that powers our small satellite launch vehicle, LauncherOne. Even in the short time since then, our in-house team of engineers and technicians has made excellent progress. Today, we’re pleased to share a new video showing a ninety-second test firing of the same engine. This is approximately four and a half times longer than the longest previous hotfire," Virgin Galactic said in a press release.

LauncherOne is designed to provide affordable, reliable, and responsive orbital launches for small satellites. As an air-launched system, LauncherOne can optimize each mission to customer requirements by operating from a variety of launch sites. Virgin Galactic has full, private funding in place for the program, which includes a dedicated and world-class team of 150 experienced aerospace professionals working from a state-of-the-art 150,000 square foot manufacturing and design facility in Long Beach, California.

NASA announced Wednesday that it has awarded commercial 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 LauncherOne.

NASA’s order, which comes through the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program, represents a tangible sign of the space leader’s increasing embrace of small satellites as an important means for conducting research and development. Previously, NASA purchased a suborbital flight for a dozen experiments onboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo—meaning NASA is now a customer of both of Virgin Galactic’s privately-funded space vehicles.

“We are excited to add NASA to our growing list of customers who have signed contracts to launch small satellites onboard LauncherOne,” said Virgin Galactic president Steve Isakowitz. “When paired with affordable and responsive launch vehicles like LauncherOne, small satellites create big opportunities for business and for science. We’re designing LauncherOne to offer market-leading pricing and flexibility to help our customers make the most of their missions, and we are excited to work with NASA to help our nation’s scientists and researchers get their satellites into space.”

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