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LauncherOne (L1)

LauncherOne with B747-400 [Virgin Galactic]

LauncherOne [Virgin Galactic]

Virgin Galactic, later spun off as Virgin Orbit, announced in July 2012 the design of its new LauncherOne (L1) air-launched space launch system.

LauncherOne is an expendable, two stage rocket with liquid RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellants . The first stage is powered by the Newton-3 engine. The second stage, featuring the Newton-1 engine, is reignitable for orbit insertion. Payloads will be accommodated within a fairing approximately 1 meter in diameter, with a cylindrical shape for the first 77 cm and a conical section above.

LauncherOne is being developed by The Spaceship Company (TSC) of Mojave. TSC is a partnership of Virgin Galactic and Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. The stages and shroud, including structures, engines, and Launch Vehicle/Pylon Interface, will be manufactured at TSCís FAITH production facility. Other components, such as avionics and secondary subsystems will be delivered to the production facility by world-class suppliers.

After lift-off with the carrier aircraft, LauncherOne will be released from the airplane at an altitude of approximately 15 km above mean sea level. LauncherOne will free fall for approximately four seconds before the first stage ignites. The two stages operate in sequence, with the potential for the second stage to relight, and the payload is delivered to a designated low-earth orbit.

Originally it was to use the same WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) mother ship as the crewed suborbital SpaceShipTwo. Sometimes in 2014, the concept was scaled up for increased performance, using the larger NewtonThree and NewtonFour engines and a Boeing 747-400 carrier plane called "Cosmic Girl" replacing the smaller WhiteKnightTwo.

A maiden launch is planned for 2017. Initially, LauncherOne missions will be staged from Mojave Spaceport. Virgin Orbit has completed launch assessments the primary launch site of the Mojave Air and Spaceport (MHV) in California and for a variety of operating locations including the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia. Virgin Orbit is prepared to obtain approvals to operate in locations other than Mojave based on customer interest. Newquay airport, Cornwall, in the UK is also planned as a launchsite. Guam has been selected as a launch base for low-inclination orbits. Virgin Orbit is also assessing launch operations at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport in Hawaii and the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico.

Version Aircraft Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
LauncherOne (L1) Boeing 747-400 Stage 1 / NewtonThree Stage 2 / NewtonFour -
LauncherOne (3) (L1) Boeing 747-400 Stage 1 / NewtonThree Stage 2 / NewtonFour Stage 3 / ?
Performance (kg) LEO LPEO SSO GTO GEO MolO IP
LauncherOne (L1) 500 300 - - - -
LauncherOne (3) (L1) -
No.TypNo   Type           Fl.No  Date          LS              Aircraft       Payload 

 1    1    LauncherOne           25.05.2020    Mo RW12/30      B-747-400  F   Starshine 4 / Intern-Sat
 2    2    LauncherOne           17.01.2021    Mo RW12/30      B-747-400      CACTUS 1 / ExoCube 2 / MiTEE 1 / PolarCube / Q-PACE / TechEdSat 7 /
                                                                              CAPE 3 / RadFxSat 2 / PICS 1 / PICS 2 / Prometheus 2.8 / Prometheus 2.11

planned launches:

 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.2021    Nq RW12/30      B-747-400      Artemis 1
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.2021    Gu RW06LR/24RL  B-747-400      Ignis / (multiple small payloads)
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.1Q.2021    Gu RW06LR/24RL  B-747-400      PAN A / PAN B / (STP-27VP payloads)
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.202x    Mo RW12/30      B-747-400      OneWeb LL1 1, ... x
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.202x    Mo RW12/30      B-747-400      OneWeb LL2 1, ... x
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.202x    Mo RW12/30      B-747-400      OneWeb LL3 1, ... x
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.202x    Mo RW12/30      B-747-400      OneWeb LL4 1, ... x
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.2021    ?               B-747-400      (Spaceflight multiple payloads)
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.10.2021    ?               B-747-400      (STP-S28 1 multiple  payloads)
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.2022    ?               B-747-400      (STP-S28 2 multiple  payloads)
 x    x    LauncherOne           xx.xx.2022    ?               B-747-400      (STP-S28 3 multiple  payloads)

To be co-manifested:

Brik-2, HALO-Net Free Flyer, STORK 4, 5


 1: failed seconds after ignition due to broken stage 1 high-pressure LOX feed line

Launch sites:

CCK = NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA USA
Gu  = Andersen AFB ?, Guam, Guam GuamMo  = Mojave Air and Space Port, Mojave, California, USA USA
Nq  = Spaceport Cornwall, Newquay, Cornwall, England, UK UK
WI  = Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, USA USA