Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the private space tourism company Virgin Galactic, unveiled plans to add satellite launches to its list of commercial space services, with the first flights to blast off in 2016.
Branson announced the new small-satellite launch service, which will feature an expendable two-stage liquid-fuelled rocket called LauncherOne, at the 2012 Farnborough Air Show. The satellite launcher already has customers lined up for the first flights, Virgin Galactic officials said.
“I’m delighted to say that we can announce the next step of the Virgin Galactic journey,” Branson said as he unveiled LauncherOne. “A step that will bring great long-term benefits to our existing SpaceShip Two Programme. It will unlock new technologies and will help fast-track the potential of space as a positive force for powerful change.”