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Virgin Galactic reviving space cargo effort


After nearly two years on the back burner, Virgin Galactic is expected to announce that it will soon start launching small satellites into orbit for about $1 to $2 million per payload. The project would use Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo aircraft to launch a rocket into low-earth orbit from the flight levels, with a maximum satellite weight of about 440 pounds. Virgin Galactic has said it will make an announcement at the Farnborough International Airshow in mid-July, but has been scant on details. It confirmed that the satellite-launching program is back on track, but said it wouldn’t be open to anyone who wanted to put something into space. Several federal agencies have expressed interest in using a low-cost commercial vehicle like Virgin Galactic’s to put small satellites into orbit, and the company won a handful of NASA and Defense Department contracts toward those efforts.