Launching satellites from mid-air could greatly reduce launch costs.


Virgin Orbit — Virgin's satellite launch subsidiary and Virgin Galactic spinoff — just dropped a 70-foot rocket from a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet at 35,000 feet.

The rocket plummeted down to Earth, as intended by the company, in the final major test for Virgin Orbit's satellite launch system LauncherOne. The idea is to bring down the cost of launching satellites by flying them to high altitudes first, greatly reducing rocket fuel requirements.

In fact, Virgin Orbit has promised to bring down the cost of launching a satellite as part of its LauncherOne system to "about $12 million" according to Richard Dalbello, vice president of business development for Virgin Galactic, who spoke at a panel discussion in 2017.

Satellite Launch for Cheap

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart told CNBC that the company’s first official launch "hopefully will be before the end of the summer."

Virgin Orbit isn't the first company consider launching rockets from mid-air. The idea has been around since at least 1990, when aerospace outfit Northrop Grumman launched rockets from a Lockheed Martin aircraft. Launches, however, were far more expensive.

READ MORE: Virgin Orbit Just Dropped a Rocket From a Boeing 747 [Wired]

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