Our pilots and launch engineers are all smiles after another successful test flight, this one with a fully-loaded #LauncherOne rocket under the wing of our 'flying launch pad.' Here's a taste of the beautiful views today in the skies above @MojaveAirportpic.twitter.com/esNkpyOb0l
VICTORVILLE, Calif., 19 November 2018 (Virgin Orbit PR) — This Sunday, a new sight appeared in the baby-blue skies over Southern California: A specially modified 747-400 carrying a 70-foot-long rocket under its wing soared through the air as part of a successful test flight for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne. Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company completed a flawless test flight, proving that its carbon-fiber two-stage rocket works perfectly as a pair with Cosmic Girl, the customized former passenger aircraft that serves as the company’s ‘flying launch pad.’ The successful test puts more air under the wings—and fins—of the company’s plans to reach orbit in early 2019.
I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.
I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….
So, have at it! Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!
In what could be a preview of things to come, Donald Trump today threatened The Boeing Company with the cancellation of a $3 billion U.S. Air Force contract to replace the fleet of Air Force One aircraft.
The Small Satellite 2016 Conference got underway today in Logan, Utah. Although I was not able to make it, I’ve been able to follow the conference via Twitter. A number of small satellite launch companies provided updates on launch vehicles they are developing. There is information below on Firefly Space Systems, Nammo, Rocket Crafters, Rocket Lab, Super Strypi, Vector Space Systems and Virgin Galactic.
Information came from the following Tweeters who are attending the conference:
WACO, Texas, March 16, 2016 (L-3 PR) – L-3 and Virgin Galactic announced today that Virgin Galactic’s 747-400 aircraft, which serves as an airborne launch pad for its LauncherOne small satellite launch service, has arrived at L-3’s Platform Integration facilities and is entering into the next phase of its modification process.
A member of Firefly Space Systems board of directors has filed suit in Los Angeles to overturn an arbitrator’s judgment that he turn documents over to rival Virgin Galactic in a dispute between Virgin and its former vice president of propulsion.
Patrick Joseph (P.J.) King filed the action on Tuesday in a case involving Tom Markusic, who left Virgin Galactic to form Firely with King in early 2014.
“After Dr. Markusic left Galactic, [Richard] Branson sued his ex-employee the the Arbitration, falsely accusing of Dr. Markusic of breaking his former employment agreement by ‘stealing’ what apparently is nothing more than standard open-source technical information which is available in the academic literature, that Galactic claims are someone ‘trade secrets'”, the suit reads.
SINGAPORE, 4 December 2015 (ST Aerospace PR) – ST Aerospace, with an established global track record on aircraft maintenance and modifications, now extends its maintenance support from military forces, commercial airlines to the world’s first commercial spaceline. Its US affiliate company VT San Antonio Aerospace will be providing a series of D-level heavy maintenance checks on the Virgin Galactic’s Boeing 747-400 aircraft – the carrier aircraft for its small satellite launch vehicle.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, December 3, 2015 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic introduced the newest addition to its fleet of vehicles today as part of a technical update on its LauncherOne small satellite launch service. The 747-400 commercial jet aircraft, previously operated by Virgin Atlantic under the nickname ‘Cosmic Girl,’ will provide a dedicated launch platform for the LauncherOne orbital vehicle. Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic engineers announced the acquisition of the aircraft while providing an update on LauncherOne development progress.
I was pleased to find myself mentioned in the most recent edition of Charles Lurio’s The Lurio Report (subscription only). He referenced a post I wrote in July about Virgin Galactic moving to a larger launch vehicle (dubbed LauncherTwo by sources) that would be launched from a modified 747 instead of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
Lurio spoke with Virgin Galactic Vice President of Special Projects Will Pomerantz in a valiant if not entirely successful attempt to clarify what the heck’s going on with the project. Alas, it wasn’t really Charles’ fault; the answers he received were not real clear.
The monthly Plane Crazy Saturday open house at the Mojave Air and Space Port took place under decidedly soggy skies today. (Much like the one last month; ah, winter in Mojave! Damn you, Pacific storms!)
The tarmac was filled largely with military planes and one very large jumbo jet that wasn’t part of the show. The United Airlines 747-422 in the distance is the second aircraft destined for use as part of Stratolaunch’s air-launch system. The 495-seat aircraft, which was manufactured in 1997, arrived on Thursday. The other 747 is now sitting in front of the BAE Systems hangar at the other end of the taxiway.
More photos from Plane Soggy Saturday after the break. (more…)