The competition heats up: The CEO of Virgin Galactic, George Whitesides, revealed at a satellite conference that they are on schedule for LauncherOne to make its first flight before the end of 2016.
The company recently started hot-fire tests of an engine called Newton 3 developed by Virgin Galactic for the first stage of LauncherOne, Whitesides said. That engine, capable of generating 265,000 to 335,000 newtons of thrust, uses liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. “We’re now to the point where we’re very confident that we can build a very affordable rocket,” Whitesides said. After his speech, he said the company was on schedule to begin flights by the end of 2016, with even initial test flights likely carrying some satellites.
That it is Whitesides and not Richard Branson saying this makes me more confident that it is true, though I remain very skeptical of any promise made by anyone these days at Virgin Galactic. However, the impression from this article confirms an earlier impression I have had, that the company is beginning to shift its resources away from suborbital tourism with SpaceShipTwo and towards orbital launch services with LauncherOne. Branson had announced LauncherOne as a concept in 2012, but only recently have we begin to hear of any actual work on it.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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