QinetiQ to Lead Development of Hypersat’s Next Generation Hyperspectral Satellites for Launch by Virgin Orbit in 2023

FARNBOROUGH, UK (QinetiQ PR) — Hypersat has awarded a design-phase contract to QinetiQ Inc. (QinetiQ) for their next generation hyperspectral satellite. This study will be an enabling activity for a potential constellation of six low earth orbit (LEO) satellites that Hypersat plans to launch, and which will be capable of producing greater information about the material properties on Earth than any current capability in orbit.

QinetiQ will lead a team of specialist engineering and technology organisations across the US that includes Redwire, Millennium Engineering and Integration, LLC, and Brandywine Photonics. The team selected Virgin Orbit as the launch provider in part because of the unparalleled agility, mobility, and responsiveness afforded by air-launch, which allows for shorter call-up times and more flexible scheduling for customers, as well as direct injection into precise target orbits. In addition to the value for commercial customers, this capability enables a major strategic advantage to government organisations seeking to maintain unencumbered overhead intelligence.

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Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.

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SPACovirus Sweeps Space Sector

Richard Branson celebrates the first Virgin Galactic trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Credit Virgin Galactic)
Wall Street’s latest easy money craze has attracted a growing number of space companies. But, just because they can go public, should they?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Seven space companies have gotten caught up in the SPACovirus sweeping through Wall Street. The impact on the space industry is going to be interesting to watch.

A SPAC is a special purpose acquisition company. It’s a publicly traded investment firm that, with outside investors, acquires or merges with another company, and then takes the acquisition public under its own name.

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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.

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Virgin Orbit Hires Former OneWeb CEO as Chief Operating Officer

LONG BEACH, Calif., February 17, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s satellite launch company, announced today that Tony Gingiss has joined the team as their Chief Operating Officer (COO). As the first person to hold this position, Tony will oversee day-to-day operations at Virgin Orbit’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Long Beach, CA. His arrival follows the successful LauncherOne mission in January and completes a sequence of enhancements to the company’s executive team as Virgin Orbit pivots to commercial operations.

Tony brings more than 30 years of aerospace experience in design, production, operations and leadership to this new role. Most recently, he served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OneWeb Satellites, where he led that company through design, low-rate-initial production, pilot launches, and into full production. Under his leadership, the company built a new factory and scaled to a production rate of two satellites per day — the successful realization of a fundamentally new approach to aerospace manufacturing.

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Virgin Orbit Pens Launch Deal with SatRevolution

LONG BEACH, Calif., February 9, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, announced today it has signed a new launch agreement with SatRevolution, a NewSpace satellite company headquartered in Wroclaw, Poland. For this contract, Virgin Orbit will launch a pair of small satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (MARTA), later this year onboard its LauncherOne rocket.

Based on the state-of-the-art UniBus 3U CubeSat platform developed by SatRevolution, STORK-4 and MARTA are the first optical satellites to be launched as part of the company’s 14-satellite STORK constellation. Once deployed, STORK-4 and MARTA will collect multispectral medium-resolution imagery and data for agricultural and energy customers in the US, in Poland, and abroad. The mission will also feature a reduced timeline integration of the STORK-4 and MARTA satellites as part of a critical first step in demonstrating a responsive launch service. Future LauncherOne missions will be designed to offer a rapid launch capability, with the companies working closely to ensure that quick call-up capabilities are readily available.

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Virgin Orbit Hires New VPs of Safety, Government Operations

LONG BEACH, Calif., February 4, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, announced today the addition of two well-respected space industry leaders to its executive team. Kirk Pysher has joined the company as its new Vice President of Mission Assurance, Quality and Safety, and Janice Starzyk as Vice President of Government Operations.

The announcement comes on the heels of Virgin Orbit’s successful orbital launch demonstration in January, when its unique air-launched LauncherOne system carried 9 small satellite missions to space in support of NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services Program. Having now fully demonstrated all elements of LauncherOne, the Virgin Orbit team is turning its full attention to serving its growing manifest of customers, and as such is expanding its executive team to better serve its growing customer base.

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Virgin Orbit to Launch First Satellite for Dutch Ministry of Defense

Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 takes off from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif., January 25, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, announced today that it has been selected by the Dutch space engineering company Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS) to launch the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s (RNLAF) first ever satellite, a 6U CubeSat called BRIK-II.

Designed and integrated by ISIS, BRIK-II will serve as a testbed for various communications experiments and demonstrate how nanosatellites can provide a meaningful contribution to military operations. The mission represents a significant step forward for the Dutch Ministry of Defense’s efforts to develop their first space capabilities, with a particular emphasis on responsive launch.

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Virgin Orbit Launches 10 Payloads for NASA

Cosmic Girl takes off from Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

MOJAVE, Calif., January 17, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, confirmed that its LauncherOne rocket reached space during the company’s second launch demonstration today, successfully deploying 10 payloads for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP).

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Video of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Flight

Erik Franks captured video from the beach of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne successful flight on Sunday.

LauncherOne Reaches Orbit, Deploys Payloads

Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 takes off from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

UPDATE: Virgin Orbit has confirmed that the second stage fired as planned for the second time and that the payloads were deployed into the planned orbit.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne reached orbit for the first time on Sunday with 10 CubeSats aboard, marking a major milestone for Richard Branson’s air launch operation.

The modified Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port and flew out over the Pacific Ocean where it dropped the booster. Virgin Orbit tweeted that the NewtonThree and NewtonFour engines on the first and second stages fired as planned to reach orbit.

The rocket is now coasting in orbit. The NewtonFour engine will ignite a second time to circularize the orbit before the 10 CubeSats are released. The CubeSats are aboard as part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program.

NASA provided funding for the launch under its Venture Class Launch Services program, which is designed to help fund new small satellite launch vehicles.

Three Launches & a Hot Fire in Three Days

Fully loading the propellant and detecting no leaks is a major milestone for the Green Run test series. A total of 114 tanker trucks delivered propellant to six propellant barges next to the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

The upcoming holiday weekend (Martin Luther King Day on Monday) will see NASA conduct the long awaited Green Run hot fire of its Space Launch System rocket core and orbital launches by Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and SpaceX involving 71 satellites.

Saturday, January 16

Launch Vehicle: Rocket Lab Electron
Mission Name: “Another One Leaves the Crust”
Payload: OHB Group micro communications satellites
Launch Time: 2:41 EST (0741 UTC)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com (begins 15 minutes prior to launch)

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed as engineers examine sensor data. They have a 10-day launch window.

Hot Fire: Space Launch System Core
Test Window: 5-7 p.m. EST (2200–0000 UTC)
Test Site: Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov (begins at 4:20 p.m. EST/2120 UTC)
Post-test Briefing: Approximately two hours after test completion on NASA website

Sunday, January 17

Launch Vehicle: Virgin Orbit LauncherOne/Cosmic Girl
Mission Name: NASA ELaNa-20 mission
Payloads: 10 CubeSats
Launch Window: 1:00-5:00 p.m. EST (1800-2200 UMT)
Launch Sites: Mojave Air and Space Port, California (Cosmic Girl Boeing 747), Pacific Ocean (LauncherOne)

Monday, January 18

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Mission Name: Starlink V1.0-L16
Payloads: 60 Starlink broadband satellites
Launch Time: 8:45 a.m. EST (1345 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com (begins 15 minutes before launch)

Virgin Orbit Delays Flight Test to Sunday

Cosmic Girl performs a pitch up maneuver during a flight test on April 12, 2020. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Virgin Orbit has delayed the flight test of its LauncherOne booster originally scheduled for Wednesday until Sunday, Jan. 17. Operations are expected to take place between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST (1800-2200 UTC). Your local time may vary; please adjust accordingly.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It will release LauncherOne over the Pacific Ocean west of San Nicolas Island. The rocket’s first stage will fire once the booster is clear of the aircraft.

LauncherOne’s second flight test will carry 10 CubeSats for NASA under the space agency’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. NASA also funded the launch under its Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) program.

LauncherOne’s first flight test failed on May 25, 2020. The first stage fired for about four seconds, but then quit due to a break in a propellant line.

This second flight test is seen as crucial for Virgin Orbit, which is attempting to raise an additional $200 million in investment. Founder Richard Branson has said the company has already raised $1 billion in its effort to reach orbit.