The competition heats up: From Virgin Galactic come two announcements today:
- Richard Branson and family will be the first tourists to fly on SpaceShipTwo.
- They are developing an orbital launcher to work with WhiteKnightTwo capable of putting 500 pounds in orbit.
The second is really the big news, especially as it appears they already have some customers.
LauncherOne will be a two-stage vehicle capable of carrying up to 500 pounds (225 kilograms) to orbit for prices below $10 million. The rocket will be launched from Virgin Galactic’s proven WhiteKnightTwo, the uniquely capable aircraft also designed to carry SpaceShipTwo aloft to begin her suborbital missions. Thanks to the extreme flexibility of air launch, Virgin Galactic’s customers will enjoy reduced infrastructure costs in addition to the wide range of possible launch locations tailored to individual mission requirements and weather conditions. Branson and other senior executives announced that work has already begun on the vehicle.