Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.
Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.
In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).
With a critical launch attempt looming at the end of the year, Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is seeking up to $200 million in investment that could value the company at $1 billion, The Wall Street Journalreported.
LUXEMBOURG, 17 September 2020 (Kleos Space PR) — Kleos Space S.A (ASX:KSS, Frankfurt:KS1), a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company is pleased to provide an update on the Kleos Scouting Mission launching on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) PSLV-C49 Mission from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota Range in India (SHAR).
The Company has been informed (by NSIL via Spaceflight Inc.) that the launch of the four Kleos satellites planned on-board PSLV-C49 mission is being targeted during the 1st half of November 2020, based on the current status of planning of activities. This schedule is subject to change due to operational circumstances beyond NSIL control.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is look for investors. The company posted the following notice on its website:
Virgin Orbit LLC, (together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, the “Company”), is exploring a possible transaction and has retained LionTree Advisors LLC (“LionTree”) and Perella Weinberg Partners LP (“PWP”) (together, the “Financial Advisors”).
The website includes a link to a password protected presentation that potential investors can review.
Virgin Orbit is developing LauncherOne, a small-satellite booster that is air launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner.
Virgin Orbit’s first launch attempt failed in late May when the rocket’s engine stopped about five seconds after it began firing. The company is planning another launch attempt later this year.
The travel-heavy Virgin Group has been struggling to fund its companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The New Indian Expressreports that India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center, which has not conducted a launch in nine months, has become a COVID-19 hot spot.
For the second day in a row, India’s spaceport has recorded around 31 new Covid-19 cases causing serious headache for the administration. A total of 90 people, who were primary and secondary contacts of infected persons, were tested of which 31 are diagnosed positive.
Despite the sudden spurt in cases, Shar administration has decided not to suspend the operations and 50 per cent staff are asked to attend the duty. “The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) works are going on in full swing. We are hopeful of launching maiden SSLV flight by end of this year,” a senior ISRO official said….
But, the people who are worst affected are the contract engineers residing outside Shar colonies. A contract employee said that he did not receive salary since last four months and with rising Covid-19 cases the possibility of a call back looks grim.
ISRO has not conducted an orbital launch from the facility this year. The Indian space agency usually launches five or six times annually. India’s most recent launch was on Dec. 11, 2019.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, August 28, 2020 (NASA PR) — NASA has approved the final development stage of the Southwest Research Institute-led Lucy mission to explore the Trojan asteroids in preparation for its October 2021 launch.
Satellite broadband provider OneWeb received FCC approval this week to launch an additional 1,280 satellites, increasing the size of the company’s constellation to 2,000 spacecraft.
The additional satellites will provide services in the V-band and operate at an altitude of 8,500 km (5,282 miles).
“After review of the record, we conclude that granting OneWeb access to the U.S. market for its proposed V-band satellite system would increase competition for the broadband services proposed to be provided by such systems to American consumers, particularly in underserved areas, offer a greater likelihood that such a large system is able to fulfill its ambitions and deploy the proposed services, and thereby serve the public interest, subject to the requirements and conditions specified herein,” the FCC said.
by Kathy Lueders Associate Administrator for Human Spaceflight
Jumping headfirst into the Artemis program has been one of the highlights in my transition as the associate administrator for human spaceflight. With an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there was little time for a transition period as mission essential work needed to continue as safely as possible.
The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency has approved the commercial manufacture of VITAL, a breathing device designed specifically to address the needs of coronavirus patients.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In late April, NASA announced the development of Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL), a ventilator prototype designed specifically to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, 28 manufacturers around the world have been licensed to make the device. Now one of those licensees is preparing to begin production in Brazil.
Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre has suspended all regular activities for the time being. The New Indian Expressreports:
“In view of the considerable number of Covid-19 positive cases in Shar and Sullurpeta housing colonies, it is essential to trace the primary contacts, test and isolate them to avoid further spread. All the office premises need to be fumigated and sanitised wherever the Covid positive employees had worked. Hence, the regular activities of SDSC Shar are suspended till completion of aforementioned activities,” said Shar controller V Kumbakarnan, in an official circular dated August 15, which is accessed by The New Indian Express.
Meanwhile, Pulicat Nagar employees colony, where maximum number of Covid-19 cases are diagnosed, has been placed on strict lockdown.
It is unclear how long normal activities at India’s spaceport will be suspended. The story also gave no indication of how serious the outbreak of COVID-19 is at the center.
ISRO, which typically conducts five or six orbital launches annually, has yet to launch in 2020. The space agency’s most recent launch was in December 2019.
Launches known to be on the manifest include:
GSLV Mk.2 — GEO Imaging Satellite 1 (GISAT 1)
Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) maiden flight
PSLV — RISAT 2BR2 radar imaging satellite
SSLV — 4 BlackSky Global Earth observation satellites.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With 2020 more than half way through, NASA is gearing up for a busy rest of the year and 2021.
Following the recent successful launch of a Mars rover and safely bringing home astronauts from low-Earth orbit aboard a new commercial spacecraft, NASA is looking forward to more exploration firsts now through 2021.
BOSTON, Aug. 6, 2020 (Genes in Space PR — Student Kristoff Misquitta (17) has won the sixth annual Genes in Space competition. Misquitta, who attends Stuyvesant High School in New York, NY, proposed to study drug metabolism on the International Space Station (ISS). His experiment will be performed by astronauts aboard the ISS next year.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage for the Artemis I lunar mission has successfully completed its first four Green Run tests and is building on those tests for the next phase of checkout as engineers require more capability of the hardware before hot-firing the stage and its four powerful engines.
The European Commission (EC) has slashed its space budget for 2021-27 from a proposed €16 billion ($18.8 billion) to €13.2 billion ($15.1 billion) due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the exit of Britain from the European Union (EU).
Under terms worked out last week by EU leaders, the space budget will devote €8 billion ($9.4 billion) on the Galileo satellite navigation system and €4.8 billion ($5.65 billion) to the Copernicus constellation of environmental satellites.
The new projects look at food- and water-supply stability and how changes in human activity are affecting the environment.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The COVID-19 pandemic has touched most aspects of human life. In recent months, NASA has initiated research projects focused on how the human response to the pandemic has affected our environment, like how air quality has improved in the wake of reduced vehicular traffic in many places. But the tentacles of the pandemic extend well beyond that.