Virgin Galactic Developing Small Sat Launcher to Take on Pegasus

Plans for UK satellite launcher
BBC News

Two British companies are involved in discussions about developing a low-cost rocket capable of putting small satellites in orbit. The idea is being promoted by SSTL, a firm in Guildford, Surrey, best known for its Earth observation spacecraft, in conjunction with Virgin Galactic.

The new venture would be an entirely commercial exercise. It would see a two-stage rocket launch from underneath a carrier aircraft.

The concept would look similar to the US Pegasus system, which uses a former airliner to lift a booster to 40,000ft, before releasing it to make its own way into orbit.

Galactic has a carrier aeroplane, known as White Knight Two. Its primary function will be to lift the space tourists’ rocket plane to its launch altitude. But Galactic also wants to pursue other uses for the White Knight craft, and the idea of using it as a platform to release a British satellite launcher is an appealing one.

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