Despite what you may have heard, Virgin Galactic isn’t entirely about getting into the space tourism game. A lot of the real money lies in unmanned satellite launches, and the company’s commercial LauncherOne system relies on this beautifully powerful rocket, which just underwent tests in the Mojave desert.
From Virgin Galactic’s release on the test:
The test reached steady-state operation and allowed the team to capture high quality data about the engine during start-up, operation, and safe shutdown. It occurred the same week as multiple full duration firings of the gas generator for LauncherOne’s upper stage engine, each exceeding six minutes in duration.
LauncherOne’s orbital flights are achieved using two rocket engines: a single 73,500 lbf thrust ‘NewtonThree’ main stage engine, and a single 5,000 lbf thrust ‘NewtonFour’ upper stage engine. Both the NewtonThree and the NewtonFour are highly reliable, pump-fed LOX/RP-1 liquid rocket engines designed, tested, and built by Virgin Galactic.
While the company is still sifting through the remains of a fatal crash involving its SpaceshipTwo crewed vehicle, it’s still pointed full speed ahead at its other development programs, like the one of LauncherOne.
Combined with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its Dragon capsule, the future’s so bright you’re gonna need shades.