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Small satellite launcher Virgin Orbit announces plans to send tiny vehicles to Mars

[2019.10.09, Wed 19:05] Virgin Orbit has big plans to send small spacecraft to Mars, as soon as 2022. "It's still a pretty small club, and none of them have been something quite like this where it's a consortium of companies and universities," Will Pomerantz, the vice president of special projects at Virgin Orbit, tells The Verge. The Virgin Orbit team was inspired to take on this endeavor thanks to NASA's recent InSight mission, which sent a lander to Mars in November of 2018. Now, Virgin Orbit says it has figured out a way to send vehicles as light as 110 pounds into deep space with the company's future rocket, called LauncherOne. Most of Virgin Orbit's business plan revolves around launching small- to medium-sized satellites into low Earth orbit with the rocket, but Pomerantz says it's possible to go even farther. For a future deep-space mission the rocket might contain an extra stage on top - essentially a small booster with an engine attached - that can propel a small satellite beyond the initial Earth orbit and into deep space. The Virgin Orbit team is getting close after performing a number of tests with both Cosmic Girl and the rocket, and Pomerantz says the plan is to fly the rocket before the end of the year.
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