Virgin Orbit to Launch Again by End of Year

LauncherOne (Credit: Mojave)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Coming off flawless back-to-back launches, the Virgin Orbit team has settled into a steady flight preparation rhythm with LauncherOne. [Earlier today], the fully assembled rocket that will carry our next customers’ satellites to space has left our rocket factory in Long Beach and headed up to the bare concrete pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port that serves as all the spaceport we need. Already, the rocket has been mated to the customized 747 that serves as our flying launch pad, mobile mission control, and fully re-usable first stage all at once.

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Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl Jetliner Prepares for Satellite Launch

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 flight. (Credit: Flight Aware)

Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl rehearsed an upcoming satellite launch over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday evening. The 3 hour plus flight originating and ending at the Mojave Air and Space Port involved flying what is called the race track near the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast.

Last month, Cosmic Girl was practicing nighttime touch-and-goes on Runway 12-30 at the spaceport. That indicates Virgin Orbit is gearing up for the first night launch of its LauncherOne satellite booster.

LauncherOne will launch the STP-27VPB mission for the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The rocket will also launch the PAN A and PAN B spacecraft, which are part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

The flight will be called Tubular Bells, Part 2 after a popular instrumental song of that name produced by Virgin Records. Tubular Bells, Part 1 was the name of the LauncherOne flight that orbited the STP-27VPA mission in June 2021.

Virgin Orbit successfully launched 10 microsatellites for NASA’s ELaNa program in January. It was the first successful flight of LauncherOne, which failed on its maiden launch in June 2020.

Mojave Spaceport Receives $5.9 Million for Improvements to Longest Runway

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft on runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port following a taxi test. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

MOJAVE, Calif. — The Mojave Air and Space Port has received a $5.9 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to rehabilitate and strengthen portions to Runway 12-30, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) announced.

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Environmental Review Paves Way for Virgin Orbit Launches From Guam

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An assessment has concluded that Virgin Orbit (VO) could conduct satellite launches out of Anderson Air Force Base on Guam without having any significant impact on the environment.

The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is a major step forward for Richard Branson’s company, which is seeking a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch from the U.S. island commonwealth. The finding eliminates the need to conduct a lengthier and more detailed environment impact statement.

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Ret. Brig. Gen. Mark Baird Becomes President of VOX Space

Mark Baird

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., August 17, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit is excited to announce that Brig. Gen. Mark Baird (US Air Force, retired) has been selected as the new President of VOX Space, the company’s wholly owned subsidiary that provides responsive, timely, dedicated, and affordable launch services for the national security community. In his new role, Mark will leverage more than 30 years of aerospace experience spanning both government and private entities to lead the VOX Space team forward as it builds on its early successes.

Entering the Air Force in 1989, Mark served the US’ national security space community for three decades, including positions as the Deputy Director of the National Reconnaissance Office; the Director of Space Acquisition for the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force; the Vice Commander of the US Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, and the Director of Space Superiority Systems. As the Deputy Director of the Space Force Planning Task Force at the Pentagon, Mark was responsible along with the Director for overseeing the detailed planning activities required to establish the U.S. Space Force, as well as all requisite activities from the US Air Force, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Executive Branch, and Congress.

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Virgin Orbit to Launch SatRevolution’s “Constellation of Constellations”

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif., June 29, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, announced today it has signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will expand its relationship with SatRevolution, the low-cost small satellite manufacturer and space services company based in Wrocław, Poland. The new agreement, which comes as two SatRevolution satellites are in the final countdown for launch on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, lays the groundwork for the launch of hundreds of additional satellites as well as the joint development of integrated mission services, and other potential areas of collaboration.  

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Virgin Orbit Updates Schedule for Next Week’s Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Virgin Orbit team is excited to share an update on timing for our upcoming mission, Tubular Bells: Part One!  

When

With wet dress rehearsal successfully completed, our team is proceeding through the final routine items on our pre-flight checklist. We’re coordinating with our stakeholders to identify the final preferred targets for launch, with an eye on June 30th or the early days of July.

We will only proceed with the mission if all conditions for launch are nominal. If for some reason the launch is delayed, we have backup windows extending through July.

Where

Our carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl will take off from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and will travel approximately 1 hour out to sea before releasing the rocket just off the Pacific coast.

Mission Manifest

A total of 7 satellites will fly on LauncherOne for Tubular Bells: Part One. The full list of customers onboard this mission includes:

  • The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching three CubeSat sets as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative. This launch, also known as STP-27VPA, was awarded to Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology into the U.S. military to strengthen national security.  
  • The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which is launching the Netherlands’ first military satellite, a CubeSat called BRIK II, built and integrated by Innovative Solutions in Space.
  • SatRevolution, which is launching the first two optical satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (A.K.A. MARTA), of the company’s 14-satellite STORK constellation.

How to Watch

For live updates as the flight progresses, please tune into our public livestream, which will be available on our YouTube. Alternatively, you can follow along with our live-tweets on Twitter (@VirginOrbit).

Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Virgin Orbit Sets Next Launch for End of June

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Virgin Orbit has posted an update on its third launch attempt, now scheduled for the last week in June. Here are the most relevant parts.

We recently completed final integration for all of the satellites flying onboard LauncherOne during this mission — a total of 7 spacecraft from the Department of Defense Space Test Program, SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force….

Reminder: We’re so excited to bring you live views from Mojave on launch day with our first official mission livestream, available via our YouTube page. From interviews with customers to a deep dive into our patch design process, there’s no better way to get the full story behind this launch. Don’t miss out!

As part of our quest to ensure no one is excluded from space, we’ll also provide our audience with some additional accessibility options during the livestream, including live closed-captioning and an on-screen American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

Alternatively, you can follow along as we live-tweet the mission @VirginOrbit.

Read the full update.

ExoTerra, Virgin Orbit to Develop Solar Electric Upper Stage with NASA SBIR Funding

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

The solar electric propulsion upper stage opens a path to cis-lunar space, GEO, and beyond for Virgin Orbit’s small satellite customers

LITTLETON, Colo., June 1, 2021 (ExoTerra Resource PR) — NASA has awarded Littleton, CO-based ExoTerra Resource a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award for the firm’s solar electric propulsion upper stage, currently under development in partnership with California-based launch services provider Virgin Orbit.

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United States Space Force Partnering with VOX Space for First DoD Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USSF PR) The United States Space Force, Space and Missile Systems Center has partnered with VOX Space, a US-incorporated, wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, to launch multiple Department of Defense satellites on a commercial rideshare mission from the Mojave Air and Space Port, California. The launch is currently scheduled for June 2021.

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Virgin Orbit to Launch Quantum Encryption Satellites for Arqit

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, today announced it has been selected by UK-based Arqit Limited, a leader in quantum encryption technology, to conduct two launches to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) beginning in 2023.

Arqit has pioneered a unique quantum encryption technology, QuantumCloud™, which makes the communications links of any networked device secure against current and future forms of hacking — even an attack from a quantum computer. Currently, Arqit’s system delivers an unlimited number of encryption keys using terrestrial communications systems, but by incorporating satellites, Arqit can further enhance the system.

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Virgin Orbit Selects AVS to Build Key Infrastructure for Launches from Cornwall, UK

LONG BEACH, Calif., May 3, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, Richard Branson’s responsive space company, announced today that its UK subsidiary, Virgin Orbit UK Ltd., has signed a new manufacturing agreement with AVS Added Value Solutions UK (AVS) to build the Transportable Ground Operating System (TGOS) that will support Virgin Orbit’s launch activities from Spaceport Cornwall. This manufacturing work, which will begin shortly in AVS’ facilities in the UK, represents a major step forward in the journey to bring space launch to Britain.

Virgin Orbit’s unique air-launch system launches satellites to space from a rocket carried beneath the wing of a modified 747 aircraft, giving the system unparalleled flexibility and mobility. To conduct launches, the company requires only a runway, a launch license, and a set of ground support equipment (GSE) such as the one AVS is now building, which are designed to prepare the rocket for flight and to mount it on the wing of the aircraft.

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Virgin Orbit Selected to Launch Satellites from Brazil’s Alcantara Space Center

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Leveraging existing facilities at Alcântara Space Center, the LauncherOne system allows the first ever orbital flights from Brazil

LONG BEACH, Calif., April 28, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR)— The Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira; AEB) and Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) announced today that Virgin Orbit has been selected to bring orbital launch capability to Brazil, a country which has never successfully completed a domestic launch to orbit. Thanks to the unique mobility and small footprint of Virgin Orbit’s air-launched system architecture, launches to a wide range of orbital inclinations could quickly become possible without the need for new permanent infrastructure, nor the expansion of existing facilities.

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