Test Firing of LauncherOne Liquid Rocket Engine
Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, announced today that it has reached a significant milestone in the testing of a new family of liquid rocket engines for LauncherOne, the company's small satellite launch vehicle.
Engine firing. Larger image
As part of a rapid development program, Virgin Galactic has now hot-fired both a 3,500 lbf thrust rocket engine and a 47,500 lbf thrust rocket engine, called the "NewtonOne" and "NewtonTwo" respectively. Further, the NewtonOne engine has successfully completed a full-mission duty cycle on the test stand, firing for the five-minute duration expected of the upper stage engine on a typical flight to orbit. These tests are being conducted on two new state-of-the-art test stands that the team designed, assembled and installed internally.
"We are proud of the great progress our propulsion team has made in reaching these milestones," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. "Combined with parallel progress made by the company in advanced tank and avionics technology, we are now well on our way to providing customers with the lowest cost opportunity for small satellite manufacturers and operators to buy a dedicated ride to space."
The new rocket engines were designed and assembled in-house by Virgin Galactic engineers and technicians, and mark the first firings of engines designed and built by the privately-funded company, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS.
As part of the ongoing test program, the NewtonOne engine has now been fired dozens of times, achieving the target thrust during a full-duration test. The test team has successfully completed as many as six distinct test firings in a single day, as a demonstration of the rapid test-retest capability critical to the liquid engine program. The larger NewtonTwo engine has also been fired multiple times at short duration, with longer duration firings scheduled to occur in the coming months. Additionally, Virgin Galactic engineers and technicians successfully completed a quick turnaround test in which engines were swapped out and fired within 12 hours, an important early demonstration of LauncherOne's responsive, quick call-up capability and of the versatility of both the engines and the test stand.
Virgin Galactic rocket motor test site in Mojave, Calif. (larger image)
"The unique environment in Mojave enables the team to design, manufacture, assemble and test the engines in a single location, which allows us to make progress swiftly," said Whitesides.
Both engines were custom-designed by Virgin Galactic to serve as the propulsion system for the LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle, which uses a single NewtonOne on the upper stage and a single NewtonTwo on the main stage. Both engines are simple, pressure-fed LOX/RP-1 systems built with a low part-count design. The NewtonTwo engine is a scaled-up version of the NewtonOne, sized to serve as the first stage engine for LauncherOne, with a nozzle optimized for air-launched performance. Powered by those two engines, LauncherOne will carry small satellites to low-Earth orbit affordably and responsively, enabling a new generation of private and government missions.
Talented and passionate applicants interested in joining Virgin Galactic can find job openings on the propulsion team and across all areas of the company by visiting http://www.virgingalactic.com/careers/.
About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world's first commercial spaceline. To date, the company has accepted more than $80 million in deposits from approximately 680 individuals, which is 20% more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space. Virgin Galactic's spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic's vehicle fleet by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the $10 million Ansari X Prize as the world's first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic's new vehicles, which will be manufactured by The Spaceship Company in Mojave, Calif., share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload, on suborbital space flights. The vehicles will allow an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience with astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers. The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test flight program is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Virgin Galactic is also developing LauncherOne, an orbital launch vehicle for small satellites. LauncherOne will leverage many of the same technologies, facilities, and personnel used for SpaceShipTwo, allowing Virgin Galactic to offer responsive and affordable launch opportunities to a new generation of small satellite manufacturers and operators.
About aabar Investments PJS
Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, aabar Investments PJS (aabar) invests in various sectors including infrastructure, aviation, real estate, automotive, commodities, energy and financial services. International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) acquired a stake in aabar in 2008 and has progressively increased its stake to over 95% since then. Following IPIC's initial investment, aabar has made numerous investments including stakes in Falcon Private Bank Ltd., UniCredit S.p.A., RHB Bank Malaysia, Galactic Ventures LLC (Virgin Galactic), XOJET Inc., Glencore Xstrata plc., Arabtec Construction PJSC and a portfolio of real estate projects. IPIC, established in 1984 and wholly owned by the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, invests globally in energy and energy related sectors and undertakes strategic projects on behalf of the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. IPIC's portfolio currently consists of over 15 investments throughout the hydrocarbon value chain spanning five continents. Specific investments include: Compania Espanola de Petroleos (CEPSA), NOVA Chemicals Corporation (NOVA), and Borealis AG (Borealis).
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