Virgin Galactic opens LauncherOne design and manufacturing plant

LauncherOne, a new two-stage orbital launch vehicle designed to deliver satellites of 225 kg or less into orbit, will be manufactured at a facility near the Long Beach, CA, US airport. A job fair is scheduled for March 7.

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Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJS, reported on Feb. 12 that it has leased a new 13,935m2 facility that will house design and manufacturing of the company’s small satellite launch vehicle, LauncherOne.

LauncherOne is a new two-stage orbital launch vehicle being designed by Virgin Galactic specifically to launch commercial or governmental satellites that weigh 225 kg or less. Much like SpaceShipTwo, the company’s reusable vehicle for space tourism, LauncherOne is designed to be launched from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, giving customers the ability to avoid crowded and expensive launch ranges while also picking the launch location best suited for their mission. Located at the Long Beach (CA, US) Airport, this new facility will allow easy transportation of rockets and of customers’ satellites using WhiteKnightTwo.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said, “The technical progress our team has made designing and testing LauncherOne has enabled a move into a dedicated facility to produce the rocket at quantity. With New Mexico’s magnificent Spaceport America for our commercial spaceflight operations, our Mojave facilities for WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo production, and now our new facility in Long Beach for LauncherOne, we are building capability to serve our expanding customer community.”

Virgin Galactic will be hosting a job fair and open house at the new facility on Saturday, March 7. Prospective applicants looking for more information should visit virgingalactic.com in the coming days for complete job listings and for more information on the open house.

With a launch price aimed to be the lowest in the nation or perhaps the world, LauncherOne, Virgin Galactic says it has already attracted the interest of numerous small satellite manufacturers and operators. Among them is the recently announced OneWeb project designed to deliver broadband services to areas of the world not currently served by terrestrial networks. This and other ambitious projects are expected keep the Long Beach facility busy for many years to come.

US Congressman Alan Lowenthal expressed his support regarding Virgin Galactic’s move to the area, saying, “I want to welcome Virgin Galactic to Long Beach and I applaud their commitment both to the state and to Southern California. This proves again that Southern California has the tools, the skills, and the talent to push not only the bounds of technology, but in this case, the bonds of Earth itself.”

“California and Los Angeles County have always been home to the true pioneers of the aerospace business,” says Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. “We’re thrilled that Long Beach attracted a tenant like Virgin Galactic, a world-renowned leader of the commercial space industry. This is one of the most exciting and dynamic businesses in the country, and they are bringing excellent jobs we need for the talented and hard-working aerospace professionals who already call Long Beach home.”

“I’m extremely proud that Virgin Galactic has chosen Long Beach for its new facility and excited to welcome them to the community,” says Long Beach 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo. “I have great respect for our aviation history, and this innovative satellite project will bring a spotlight to Long Beach and to our partnerships for economic development.”

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