Virgin Galactic will launch satellites from a Boeing 747

By Scorpus ยท 5 replies
Dec 4, 2015
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  1. For several years, Virgin Galactic has been working on a low-cost method of sending small satellites to space. The system consists of the company's LauncherOne rocket traveling into the upper atmosphere via a plane, where it's then launched into space mid-flight, reducing the amount of fuel needed compared to launching the same rocket from the ground.

    Virgin Galactic's satellite launching system was initially set to use WhiteKnightTwo, a twin fuselage jet aircraft capable of flying at high altitudes. However the company has now announced that WhiteKnightTwo is getting replaced on these satellite missions by a fairly standard Boeing 747-400.

    The Boeing 747-400, which was previously part of Virgin's commercial service since 2001, has been chosen as it's more suitable than WhiteKnightTwo for the LauncherOne's upgraded payload and flight frequency. The 747 is also a very common aircraft, which will inevitably reduce Virgin Galactic's operating and maintenance costs on these missions.

    Actual satellite launches using this 747-400, nicknamed 'Cosmic Girl', are still several years away. The LauncherOne rocket and its factory are still being built, though when that's complete, Virgin Galactic will begin launching 648 internet satellites for OneWeb as soon as early 2017.

    WhiteKnightTwo will continue to be used, though instead of launching satellites, it will be exclusively used for SpaceShipTwo commercial flights to the edge of space. Although SpaceShipTwo was destroyed during a test flight in 2014, resulting in the death of its pilot and injuries to the co-pilot, Virgin is still moving ahead with their commercial space operations.

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  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,664   +1,949

    Germans believed, if you just build a ballista large enough... :)

    I bet they never imagined a haywire network of satellites we would create 70 years later.


    Quite a junkyard it is.
    gibbstar and stewi0001 like this.
  3. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,681   +1,080

    yep, and WALL-E got the future of space travel right

    Anyways, I didn't care for the video. It seemed too show offish. I am also figuring that the rocket is not reusable, which is also more waste in space ( or falling to the planet.)
  4. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 718   +236

    I've always wondered why they don't fly rockets up with planes and then fire them for that last little bit. Something like the original space shuttle but instead of using those massive booster rockets why didn't they fly it up with a big airplane?
  5. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,343   +1,987

    NASA actually did a study of the feasibility of that with the space shuttle after there was a not of commotion from people after seeing it ride on the back of the 747, but obviously with all the fuel and cargo weight it was deemed as unfeasible.

    While not exactly the same, I have to admit that after seeing a few of the Saturn V launches as a kid, and the last two shuttle launches, there is something about being there and actually seeing that huge thing go, go, go!
    captaincranky likes this.
  6. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,005   +2,532

    Jules Bergman, (IIRC), is famously credited for the observation that it wasn't a certainty that the Saturn V booster would go up, but rather Florida might go down.:eek::oops:

    Any aircraft large enough to launch an Apollo moon vehicle, likely hasn't been built yet, and probably won't be. In those days the venerable Boeing 707 was still the darling of the passenger industry. Its production continued a decade after our moon landing!

    Then too there's the concept of 0 to 18,000 MPH ASAP.

    With that said, I'm picturing the conniving Elon Musk back then. He'd likely be begging for funding to either, make the Saturn V booster reusable, or, perhaps propose an electric version.

    The "mother ship launch platform" is far removed from a new concept. The Bell X-1 broke the sound barrier in 1947, after being dropped from a B-29. (Yes kids, those darn B-29 thingys had propellers)!

    Here's a fun fact: "The Apollo 11 spacecraft was equipped for its mission to the Moon with a state-of-the-art on-board computer. The CPU ran at a pace of 1 Megahertz, and the system memory was 36K in size" (*).

    (*) A bit over half that of the legendary "Commodore 64". *nerd*

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