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Virgin Galactic's plans for 'world's largest satellite constellation'

A graphic illustration the OneWeb satellite constellation Credit: Virgin Galactic/OneWeb Ltd

Sir Richard Branson has announced plans to launch the world's largest satellite network.

Writing in his blog, the billionaire behind Virgin Galactic said that his company has joined forces with OneWeb Ltd to create a "constellation" of satellites that will enable access to high speed internet and telephone lines for billions of people across the globe who don't currently have connections.

Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne programme will launch the satellites into space at a "much lower cost and with greater reliability" than conventional rockets, Branson said.

Sir Richard also claimed that "by the time our second constellation is developed, the company will have more launched more satellites than there currently are in the sky."

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space programme lost some of its momentum last year, when a SpaceShipTwo test flight disintegrated in mid-air above the Mohave Desert in November, killing one of the pilots.

Would-be space tourists want refund from Virgin Galactic

Several would-be space tourists have applied to Virgin Galactic for refunds following last month's doomed test flight.

Company chief executive George Whitesides said "a few" of its 800 customers have pulled out of taking part in a future mission into space.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crashed last month. Credit: Reuters

It comes after co-pilot Michael Alsbury, 39,died when the test flight aircraft crashedin the Mojave Desert in California on October 31. Surviving pilot Peter Siebold, 43, was said to be alert and speaking with family members and medical staff in hospital days after the fatal launch.

Virgin Galactic investigation 'could take a year'

The investigation into what caused the Virgin Galactic test flight to crash could take as long as 12 months, lead investigator Chris Hart has said.

Mr Hart, who is acting head of the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters that his team would interview injured co-pilot Peter Siebold when he was ready.

The NTSB's Chris Hart speaking to reporters. Credit: APTN

He added that the large amount of data from the test flight could speed up the investigation, but that it looked likely to go on some time.

We anticipate the typical time frame for an accident like this, it may be helped by the rich data sources that we have, we may be able to move a little more rapidly but we would anticipate it taking us as much as 12 months to complete the analysis which will end up with a probable cause determination.

– Chris Hart

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Investigators isolate system at fault in Virgin Galactic incident

Investigators looking into the fatal test flight of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo aircraft say a "feathering" system deployed too early.

ITV News' Science Correspondent Alok Jha explains how it works:

It is not yet clear why the system deployed, or whether this caused the aircraft to break up in mid-air. These are questions for the investigation which is due to last up to a year.

Branson: People still signing up to fly in space-plane

Sir Richard Branson has said that people have continued to sign up for his plan for space tourism, despite the crash over the weekend. The Virgin boss said he even had two people sign up for a space flight on the day of crash.

Responding to safety questions raised by from former employees, Mr Branson said: "We have 400 of the world's best engineers working there, we have very few engineers ever leave us because they love working for the company.

"We're going to achieve some incredible things and I think we are going to make a radical difference to this world," he added.

Galactic spacecraft safety device 'deployed too early'

Investigators in America say a safety device on the Virgin Galactic spacecraft had been deployed too early when it crashed on Friday.

But they say they can't yet work out why the device had gone wrong.

ITV News reporter Sejal Karia has the latest:

Branson: 'Self-proclaimed experts wrong about explosion'

Sir Richard Branson has told ITV News that he felt "uncomfortable" over the weekend as "self-proclaimed experts" said that an explosion brought down the Virgin Galactic space-plane.

He said: "We knew there was no explosion. We knew that the fuel tanks and engine were all intact, and we found it uncomfortable over the weekend when so many self-proclaimed experts, particularly in the UK, came out saying there had been an explosion."

For the full interview with Sir Richard Branson watch the lunchtime ITV News at 1.30pm.

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