Virgin Orbit Looks to Expand Beyond Launches

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During a session at the SmallSat Symposium last week, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart and Founder Richard Branson spoke about increasing the number of operating vehicles and branching off into satellite manufacturing and operations.

“What they were trying to achieve was not easy and we we’ll be able to launch on numerous 747s from different parts of the world. We want to be able to build rockets and ship out quickly to different parts of the world. We want them to be able to go in to the right orbit or any orbit anywhere in the world,” Branson said.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne booster is carried aloft by a modified Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl. Operations are carried out from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. LauncherOne rockets are built in Long Beach, Calif.

Virgin Galactic has plans to launch from airports in England, Japan and Guam.

In October, Virgin Orbit took a stake in Sky & Space Global, a struggling Australian satellite communications company that had entered into administration earlier in the year.

“Our ability to flex into adjacencies is a natural. Sky & Space Global is an initial step there. We really look forward to working and developing a system and other systems,” Hart said. “We see an evolution for the company obviously through launch, through distributed launch, both for the national security community as well as the international community of Allies, and then there are a plethora of space adjacencies, whether its in other aspects of national security, or in the commercial turnkey kinds of systems like Sky & Space Global is going after.”

The company completed its first successful launch last month, placing 10 educational CubeSats into orbit whose launch was paid for by NASA. The successful flight followed a failure during the maiden launch on May 25, 2020.