Author Topic: Virgin Galactic (Orbit) preparing for busy LauncherOne future  (Read 30678 times)


Offline imprezive

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?

Offline ringsider

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
« Last Edit: 08/11/2017 08:13 PM by ringsider »

Offline russianhalo117

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.

Air launch for a Pegasus is much cheaper and easier than using its ground equivalent Minotaur-C.

Online envy887

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.

Air launch for a Pegasus is much cheaper and easier than using its ground equivalent Minotaur-C.

Minotaur gives triple the Pegasus payload for slightly more cost. An equivalent payload first stage might be cheaper than air-launch.

Offline TrevorMonty

Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.

Offline ringsider

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.
Yeah those are the supposed benefits.

But the reality is the cost of airframe conversion is quite high, as is annual maintenance. I doubt that building a concrete pad and steel tower is as hard as a 747 D-check, even if Peter found it hard. It could also be he is trying to wave competitors off, you know? Make it look very hard.

Then you have the added risk of humans (pilots) involved proximally to the air launch system, while it carries a liquid-fuelled rocket under-wing. That is a much bigger risk than an unmanned VL system.

There is a reason so few horizontals have been built.
« Last Edit: 08/12/2017 10:19 PM by ringsider »

Offline imprezive

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.
Yeah those are the supposed benefits.

But the reality is the cost of airframe conversion is quite high, as is annual maintenance. I doubt that building a concrete pad and steel tower is as hard as a 747 D-check, even if Peter found it hard. It could also be he is trying to wave competitors off, you know? Make it look very hard.

Then you have the added risk of humans (pilots) involved proximally to the air launch system, while it carries a liquid-fuelled rocket under-wing. That is a much bigger risk than an unmanned VL system.

There is a reason so few horizontals have been built.

D-checks are every 5 years and the utilization of the Virgin Orbit plane is far less than an airliner so maybe longer. I don't know the cost of pad maintenance vs the 747 but my gut is the pad would be more.

Safety is certainly a real difference. Of course people fly on rockets too so it's just a matter of redundancy.

Offline ringsider

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Cosmic Girl had a full D check before being allowed to be put to this use by the FAA, and then a conversion which probably includes some kind of fuelling / dumping system inside the plane as well as the attach / release mechanisms. None of that is trivial. So there is that cost and complexity to be considered up front.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/amp19987/virgin-galactic-cosmic-girl-747-launch-satellites/

I would be surprised if you got out of that process for less than the entire cost of a fixed pad, really surprised. That is at least 10-15m USD, plus the cost of the aircraft itself, which given the conversion is probably not on a simple lease.

Everybody things horizontal is easy and cheap, but if that were true it would be much more common. There are challenges that only become obvious when you look at it really carefully.

Even Virgin's L1 flight schedule acknowledges this (I posted it here a few months ago), with a ratio of aborts to successful launches. Imagine if they have to abort mid-air - what do they do with the liquid oxygen and extra RP-1 in the LV? Can't land with that for sure, so will dumping of large amounts of RP-1 into the Pacific or desert become SOP after an abort? How do you safely vent RP-1 and LOX at 500knots? What if the first LV explodes "on the pad"? I mean it's not like that is an unknown phenomenon.

Again I am not knocking Virgin Orbit, I am sure they have plans, just outlining my views on the challenges of air launch.
« Last Edit: 08/13/2017 07:57 AM by ringsider »

Offline imprezive

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Cosmic Girl had a full D check before being allowed to be put to this use by the FAA, and then a conversion which probably includes some kind of fuelling / dumping system inside the plane as well as the attach / release mechanisms. None of that is trivial. So there is that cost and complexity to be considered up front.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/amp19987/virgin-galactic-cosmic-girl-747-launch-satellites/

I would be surprised if you got out of that process for less than the entire cost of a fixed pad, really surprised. That is at least 10-15m USD, plus the cost of the aircraft itself, which given the conversion is probably not on a simple lease.

Everybody things horizontal is easy and cheap, but if that were true it would be much more common. There are challenges that only become obvious when you look at it really carefully.

Even Virgin's L1 flight schedule acknowledges this (I posted it here a few months ago), with a ratio of aborts to successful launches. Imagine if they have to abort mid-air - what do they do with the liquid oxygen and extra RP-1 in the LV? Can't land with that for sure, so will dumping of large amounts of RP-1 into the Pacific or desert become SOP after an abort? How do you safely vent RP-1 and LOX at 500knots? What if the first LV explodes "on the pad"? I mean it's not like that is an unknown phenomenon.

Again I am not knocking Virgin Orbit, I am sure they have plans, just outlining my views on the challenges of air launch.

By no means am I saying the costs are trivial but neither are the costs of building/refurbing a launch pad. According to Wikipedia SpaceX spent $20-30 million for their Vandenberg pad and $5-$10 million a year in maintenance. That's just for one pad, to hit low and high inclination orbits you'd need two.

Horizontal launch might not be common but neither are small launch vehicles. The economics might very well be different.

What makes you think that you have to dump the RP1 and LOX to land?

I know you aren't knocking Virgin Orbit, you always seem to have good comments so I enjoy your perspective.

Offline ringsider

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By no means am I saying the costs are trivial but neither are the costs of building/refurbing a launch pad. According to Wikipedia SpaceX spent $20-30 million for their Vandenberg pad and $5-$10 million a year in maintenance. That's just for one pad, to hit low and high inclination orbits you'd need two.

Yes but that is for Falcon 9 which has a fully tanked mass of 550 tons. Rocket Lab Electron is less than 20 tons, and that is more in the same class as Virgin Orbit. I can't imagine the same costs apply to a pad of that scale - can't be more than $5-10m for the complete build out. Also from that pad they have a wide range of inclinations available.

Quote
What makes you think that you have to dump the RP1 and LOX to land?

Mainly risk. That is a 30-35 ton vehicle under the wing, I'm not sure it's clever or allowable to land in the main gear with that fully tanked. They may have a pumping solution to fuel/defuel it in flight, I don't know, but it's a complex process whatever they do.

Offline TrevorMonty

In RL case I don't think actual launch pad facilities construction was much more difficult than expected. More likely it was local roading upgrade required and ground work.

 "I know more about gravel compaction and aggregate size than I ever wanted to know in my life," says Beck.

Online ppb

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Not a big fan of the Virgin Orbit concept but I have to say I really respect their commitment to getting it done. The picture of the number of staff is phenomenal, there must be 300-400 people in that shot. It may be partially marketing, like all Virgin activities, but behind it is a really serious company.

Why are you not a fan of the concept?
I think air-launch is expensive and more difficult - even though there are a few benefits, they are hard won. And the case of Virgin they use the 747 as a marketing prop from Virgin Atlantic.

But as I said I actually have a lot of respect for the way they are going about it, despite my preferences. I have nothing bad to say about Virgin Orbit, they are professional and serious.
Peter Beck from RL has discovered the hard way that developing launch pad facilities is not any easier. Air launch has more flexibility in launch orbits and can fly round bad weather. Using common 747 is good business practice, can easily be maintained and replaced if need be.

Time will tell which system is better.
Yeah those are the supposed benefits.

But the reality is the cost of airframe conversion is quite high, as is annual maintenance. I doubt that building a concrete pad and steel tower is as hard as a 747 D-check, even if Peter found it hard. It could also be he is trying to wave competitors off, you know? Make it look very hard.

Then you have the added risk of humans (pilots) involved proximally to the air launch system, while it carries a liquid-fuelled rocket under-wing. That is a much bigger risk than an unmanned VL system.

There is a reason so few horizontals have been built.

You identified the number one reason this concept is a bad idea.  It's repeating the Space Shuttle mistake all over again:  unnecessarily risking people to launch unmanned payloads into orbit.  Almost every rocket design has had a RUD event near the launch point at some time in its history, some sooner than others.  Take a good look at the Cosmic Girl-- when that event inevitably happens to Launcher One, that will be the end of the Girl and the poor crewmen whose number came up that day.  Probably the end of Virgin Orbit as well.  All for some range flexibility and questionable decrease in price.
Quam celerrime ad astra

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