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Virgin Galactic lands contract to launch small satellite network

Virgin Galactic lands contract to launch small satellite network
Richard Branson stands beside a model of satellite-launching rocket LauncherOne and its carrier aircraft, a modified 747. (Virgin Galactic)

Aerospace firm Virgin Galactic has landed a contract to launch a U.K. communications firm's small-satellite constellation.

The contract with Sky and Space Global, announced Monday, is for four dedicated launches of "multiple" satellites on Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne, a satellite-launching rocket that will drop from the wing of a modified 747.

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The flights are expected to start in 2018. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

LauncherOne is being developed in a Long Beach facility near the airport. Its first test flight is scheduled for next year.

Other customers for LauncherOne include NASA and OneWeb, a company that plans to launch a constellation of hundreds of satellites to provide low-cost Internet access.

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