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Virgin Galactic announces smallsat launcher
Posted: Wed, Jul 11, 2012, 7:38 PM ET (2338 GMT)
LauncherOne illustration (Virgin Galactic) Virgin Galactic, the company best known for developing the SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle for space tourism, announced Wednesday it is also developing an air-launched rocket capable of placing small satellites into orbit. The LauncherOne system will feature a two-stage rocket carried aloft by Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo aircraft; the plane will release the rocket, which will ignite its engines for ascent to orbit. The company said LauncherOne will be able to place up to 225 kilograms into orbit for under $10 million per launch. Virgin announced several companies that have paid deposits for launches, scheduled to begin in 2016, including commercial remote sensing company Skybox Imaging and asteroid mining venture Planetary Resources. Virgin also announced it now has 529 customers for its suborbital space tourism flights, more than the total number of people who have gone into space since the beginning of the Space Age.
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