Elon Musk's rocket program at SpaceX is designed for massive payloads like communications satellites. But fellow space buff Richard Branson seems to be more interested in satellites that'll fit in the palm of your hand.
On Wednesday Branson fired up Virgin Orbit, a new business focused on launching tiny satellites, often known as cubesats. The diminutive orbiters are increasingly popular since they're cheaper to build and can still do useful work, like imaging the entire Earth's surface daily, as in the case of Planet Labs' foot-long Dove satellites.
Virgin Orbit is a spinoff from a team previously called LauncherOne. The project is designed to make launches quicker, easier and more flexible by dropping a launch rocket from a Boeing 747 jet called Cosmic Girl flying at 35,000 feet.
Virgin Orbit is the third company in the Branson space effort. The first two are Virgin Galactic, which focuses on commercial human spaceflight, and the Spaceship Company, which builds spacecraft for Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Orbit's leader is Dan Hart, who worked for aerospace giant Boeing for 34 years, including the post of vice president of government satellite systems.