Virgin Galactic to open Long Beach satellite launcher plant
Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, has leased a new 150,000-square-foot facility in Long Beach that will house design and manufacturing of the company's small satellite launch vehicle, LauncherOne.
LauncherOne is a new two-stage orbital launch vehicle being designed by Virgin Galactic specifically to launch commercial or governmental satellites that weigh 500 pounds or less. Much like SpaceShipTwo, the company's reusable vehicle for space tourism, LauncherOne is designed to be launched from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, which the company says will give customers the ability to avoid crowded and expensive launch ranges while also picking the launch location best suited for their mission.
Located at the Long Beach Airport, this new facility will allow easy transportation of rockets and of customers' satellites using WhiteKnightTwo, Virgin Galactic said.
"The technical progress our team has made designing and testing LauncherOne has enabled a move into a dedicated facility to produce the rocket at quantity," Virgin Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides said in a statement. "With New Mexico's magnificent Spaceport America for our commercial spaceflight operations, our Mojave facilities for WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo production, and now our new facility in Long Beach for LauncherOne, we are building capability to serve our expanding customer community."
Virgin Galactic said it aims to price LauncherOne as "the lowest in the nation or perhaps the world" and has already attracted the interest of numerous small satellite manufacturers and operators. Among them is the recently announced OneWeb project designed to deliver broadband services to areas of the world not currently served by terrestrial networks.