Virgin Orbit Announces Next Launch, Dubbed ‘Straight Up’

LauncherOne ignites on its way to space. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) has entered flight preparation mode for its forthcoming launch, Straight Up, that will support the United States Space Force’s STP-28A mission. After departing Virgin Orbit’s Long Beach rocket factory on Thursday, April 28, 2022, the rocket arrived at the Mojave Air and Space Port. It will support the Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) and will carry payloads for the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program (STP).

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Japanese Radar Constellation iQPS Selects Virgin Orbit for 2023 Orbital Launch

LauncherOne ignites on its way to space. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR)–Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB), a leading satellite launch provider, announced today the signing of a launch services agreement with Japanese earth observation constellation operator Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space, Inc. (“iQPS”). The satellite is expected to join Virgin Orbit’s manifest for early 2023.

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Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft Completes Fifth Flight with New Pylon

Stratolaunch completed its fifth test flight of Roc, on May 4, 2022. The flight debuted a new pylon that was integrated to the aircraft center wing. The pylon will be used to carry and release Talon hypersonic vehicles.

MOJAVE, Calif. (Stratolaunch PR) — Stratolaunch announces the successful completion of its fifth flight test of Roc, the world’s largest flying aircraft. The aircraft flew for 4 hours and 58 minutes over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 22,500 feet (6858 m). 

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New Mexico Seeks to Attract Virgin Galactic’s Manufacturing Facility to Spaceport America

A majority of Virgin Galactic’s future Astronauts gather with Sir Richard Branson (center) for a group photo at Virgin Galactic FAITH hangar in Mojave, CA September 25, 2013. Behind the group is the WhiteKnightTwo mated with SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Updated on March 5 at 8:34 a.m. PST with additional information about space companies located in the Los Angeles area and the benefits of industry clusters to employers and employees.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The state of New Mexico has proposed that Virgin Galactic establish a production facility at Spaceport America, which is where the company plans to begin flying tourists on suborbital space rides later this year. KRQE TV reports:

The New Mexico Economic Development Department says they have a proposal to bring Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing to the Spaceport. Right now, the manufacturing location is in the Mojave desert. Spaceport America has five permanent tenants that are conducting a variety of experiments; including one company that uses laser technology to help land on the moon.

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Stratolaunch’s Roc Retracts & Extends Landing Gear During Fourth Flight Test

Roc aircraft in flight (Credit: Stratolaunch)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Stratolaunch’s Roc — the world’s largest airplane by wing span at 385 ft (117.3 m) — flew for the fourth time on Thursday. In a sign of just how complicated the massive air-launch platform is to fly, one of the main objectives of this flight test was to retract and lower the plane’s landing gear at altitude for the first time ever.

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Stratolaunch Flight 4 Objective Today: Raise & Lower Landing Gear for First Time

Video Caption: Stratolaunch Lead Systems Engineer Stu Yun discusses preparation for the carrier aircraft’s fourth flight test, in which the team will retract and extend all of the aircraft landing gear for the first time.

Editor’s Note: The video spotlights some of the tradeoffs with advanced flying machines built by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites. They are capable of very innovative designs that push the outside of the envelope on what can be done with airplanes and spacecraft. The tradeoff is that the vehicles can be quite complex and not the easiest things to operate or maintain. That it’s taking until the fourth flight to fully retract and extend all the landing gear is ample proof.

Mojave Air & Space Port Adds Rutan Brothers to its Name

Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan pose for a photo in front of the SpaceShip2 resting under the Mothership WhiteKnight2 inside a hangar in Mojave, Calif. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — The Mojave Air and Space Port has renamed itself to honor aviation and space pioneers Burt and Dick Rutan. The facility in California’s High Desert is now known as the Mojave Air and Space Port at Rutan Field.

“Whereas, Burt Rutan and Dick Rutan have made significant contributions in experimental aviation design, fabrication, and flight test at Mojave Air and Space Port, with their combined contributions resulting in first flights of over sixty unique experimental aircraft, including one twenty-year period with an average of a first flight of a new manned research type every eight and a half months,” the Board of Directors said in a resolution passed last month.

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Kaboom! ABL Space Destroys Second Stage in Test at Mojave

ABL Space Systems lost a second stage during a test in Mojave on Jan. 19, 2022. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — A loud boom echoed across California’s Mojave Desert on Wednesday afternoon. I would normally pay little attention to it given how common such occurrences are in Mojave. But, this one was different: instead of nearly daily boom-boom of jet fighters from nearby Edwards Air Force Base going supersonic, this one was a single large BOOM!

And oh, there was a giant cloud of black smoke rising from the rocket test area at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Someone’s engine test had clearly gone awry.

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Virgin Orbit Launches 7 Payloads into Orbit

Cosmic Girl after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

MOJAVE, CALIFORNIA, January 13, 2022 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB), the responsive launch and space solutions company, confirmed it successfully deployed into orbit all 7 customer satellites onboard its LauncherOne rocket during today’s Above the Clouds mission.

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Virgin Orbit Delays Launch to Thursday

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

Virgin Orbit has postponed a satellite launch scheduled for Wednesday by 24 hours so engineers could take “a little extra time to thoroughly validate the system and to check our sensor readings.

“We are now targeting Thursday, Jan 13 as our first available launch opportunity, with potential takeoff between ~1pm & 3:30pm Pacific. We have additional windows available in the coming days, if needed,” the company tweeted.

“The launch system, the team, and our customers’ satellites remain in excellent shape as we prepare for the start of our latest mission. Set your alarms and be sure to tune into our mission livestream on Thursday, which kicks off at 12:30pm PT/20:30 GMT,” Virgin Orbit added.

LauncherOne will place seven satellites into orbit after being dropped from its Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft off the coast of California. The flight will originate from the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Virgin Orbit to Launch Satellites From California on Wednesday

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit will attempt to make it three in a row by launching a group of commercial and government satellites off the California coast on Wednesday afternoon.

Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl carrier plane is scheduled to take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. PST (21:00–23:30 GMT). The aircraft will drop the LauncherOne booster over the Pacific Ocean near the Channel Islands approximately one hour after takeoff.

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Florida Legislators Eye Tax Free Launches, State Subsidy for New Launch Complex

Falcon 9 launches 49 Starlink satellites from Florida. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Faced with increased competition from Texas, Georgia and other states, Florida legislators are eyeing new ways to keep companies launching from the Sunshine State. Florida Politics reports:

Zero G Zero Fee’ bills would create tax exemptions for anything launched into space from Florida.

What if a company could launch a rocket into space from Florida and pay no sales tax on the rocket, its payload, its fuel or even the concrete, steel and equipment needed to create the launch pad?

That would be the reality if lawmakers this Session approve legislation from Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. Tyler Sirois (SB 1466HB 65)…

At the same time, Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando has introduced HB 9233, which would provide a $10 million appropriation for Florida to build a new multiuser launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Space Florida, the state’s space business development agency, has talked about the need for a launch pad that could be leased on a per-launch basis by companies that don’t have their own launch facilities, as SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and others do.

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Building Towards Third Commercial Launch, Virgin Orbit Completes Final Launch Rehearsal

Virgin Orbit team completing final technical rehearsal of LauncherOne R5 for January flight. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Yesterday, Virgin Orbit, which has announced a planned business combination with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II (“NextGen”) (NASDAQ: NGCA), completed a full wet dress rehearsal of its air-launched LauncherOne satellite delivery service, taking the integrated system through a full run of procedures to verify the health of the system and the preparedness of the team.

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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Virgin Galactic Alleging Securities Fraud

Michael Colglazier (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A class action lawsuit was filed in New York on Dec. 7 alleging securities fraud by Virgin Galactic, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in October 2019 after merging with Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH).

Named in the lawsuit are Virgin Galactic Holdings, CEO Michael Colglazier, former CEO George Whitesides, former current chief financial officer Doug Ahrens, and former chief financial officer Jon Compagna.

The lawsuit was filed amid years-long delays in the start of commercial human suborbital flights that have caused a sharp decline in the value of the stock. Virgin Galactic began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at an opening price of $12.34 on Oct. 28, 2019. The stock is now trading at $14.46 having previously soared to a high of $62.80.

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