Last month, billionaire Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic had upgraded its LauncherOne rocket to allow it to haul bigger payloads into space. It was a move that signaled the company’s ambitions in the orbital cargo shipping and satellite delivery space — and one that put it in direct competition with SpaceX.
Now, Virgin Galactic has put the finishing touches on LauncherOne’s redesign. You can see the (maybe) Gravity-inspired trailer below, as well as the first test fire of the NewtonThree rocket engine that will power the first stage of LauncherOne:
It’s a great time for Virgin Galactic to get involved with commercial satellite delivery. This is not simply because you have major tech players like Facebook looking to send a multitude of satellites into space for various endeavors. Citizen satellites are becoming an attractive hobby among science and tech nerds wishing to send something out beyond the stratosphere. CubeSats are being used by amateur and professional researchers from around the world, wishing to take advantage of zero-gravity conditions for experiments.
LauncherOne will be able to lug 400 pounds worth of satellites into orbit for just $10 million per launch. The company hopes to have it ready for its first launch by 2017.