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The competition heats up: Virgin Galactic today announced the successful testing of their own new 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. 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. [emphasis mine]
Though they say that these engines are for their orbital rocket, not SpaceShipTwo, I find it interesting that their development was in-house, not by Scaled Composites which has so far been building everything for Virgin Galactic. Moreover, note the highlighted words, “rapid development program.” Though you should never be leisurely about this stuff in order to compete, giving this particular title to this engine program suggests they are in a particular hurry to develop it.
Both factoids suggest again that they are not happy with the performance of the hybrid engines Scaled Composites built for them, under their direction, and are now working hard to replace them.