Brazil Modeled Updated Launch Licensing on FAA Regulations

Alcantara launch complex (Credit: AEB)

BRASILIA, Brazil (Brazil Space Agency PR) — The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB/MCTI) published Ordinance No. 698, of August 31, 2021, which institutes the Regulations for the Licensing of Space Activities Operator and for Launch Authorization in the Brazilian territory. The rules referring to the authorization of launch operations were published in 2002, making it necessary to update their rules.

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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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Virgin Orbit and Southwest Research Institute to Pursue Space Science Missions, Launches and Joint Space Service Offerings

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, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing a new collaboration with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), an independent, non-profit research and development organization. Under the terms of the agreement, Virgin Orbit and SwRI will explore multiple specialized mission opportunities using the LauncherOne system coupled with SwRI’s deep expertise in space mission development. Additionally, the two organizations will explore potential opportunities for joint manufacturing of SwRI’s space platforms and delivery of space services to Virgin Orbit’s customers. 

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Virgin Orbit Conducts Propulsion Tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center

Virgin Orbit, a satellite-launch company, conducts a Thrust Chamber Assembly test on the E-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center. The company partnered with Stennis to conduct a recently completed series of hot fire tests totaling a cumulative 974.391 seconds. (Credits: NASA/SSC)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — When Virgin Orbit, a satellite-launch company based in California, sought to expand its horizons, it was only natural for the company to think about NASA’s largest rocket engine test site – Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

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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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ESA’s Boost! Fosters New Launch and In-orbit Services

ESA aims to boost commercial initiatives that offer space transportation services to space, in space, and returning from space. (Credit: ESA – Flavie Mauvais)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Companies with small satellites are set to benefit from a new end-to-end space transportation service offering additional in-orbit flexibility proposed by D-Orbit and supported through ESA’s Boost! programme.

This commercial service proposal is the first within ESA’s Boost! programme to enable in-orbit transportation services.

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D-Orbit Signs Contract with ESA Under the Boost! Commercial Space Transportation Services

The UK branch of the orbital transportation company will focus on logistics coordination and process standardisation between different European spaceports and launcher providers

CORNWALL, UK, July 20th, 2021 (D-Orbit PR) — The UK branch of D-Orbit, a leader in the orbital transportation industry, has announced the signing of a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Boost! Project with ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme.

The Responsive Microlauncher Service, which provides end-to-end delivery of payloads in orbit, is designed to utilise the upcoming small launchers that are due to be launching regularly from UK starting from 2022. The contract will focus on logistics coordination and process standardisation between different European spaceports and launcher providers.

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Virgin Orbit Hires SpaceX Veteran as New VP of Flight and Launch

Tyler Grinnell (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Long Beach, Calif., June 25, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, announced today that it has selected Tyler Grinnell to serve as the team’s new Vice President of Flight and Launch. As Virgin Orbit works to further evolve its commercial launch services, Tyler will play a key role in enabling the Flight and Launch teams to achieve the operating pace and efficiencies required to serve the company’s growing customer manifest.

Tyler brings with him a decade and a half of aerospace experience, joining Virgin Orbit after spending 12 years at SpaceX, where he held a number of positions including Launch Engineer, Launch Lead Engineer for Instrumentation & Avionics, Lead Launch Operations Development Engineer, Senior Manager of Launch Operations Development, and most recently Director of Launch and Recovery Operations. 

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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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International Partners and Government Agencies Join Arqit’s Federated Quantum System

The Federated Quantum System developed and launched in the UK with support from the UK Space Agency

CORNWALL, UK, 11 June 2021 (Arqit PR) – Arqit Limited (“Arqit”), a leader in quantum encryption technology, has today announced at the G7 Leaders Conference in Cornwall, that it has formed an international consortium of companies and government organisations to provide its quantum encryption technology to government customers in a federated system concept, called Federated Quantum System (FQS). The UK, USA, Japan, Canada, Italy, Belgium, and Austria are now represented.

Arqit invented a system which uses satellites to distribute quantum keys to data centres. These keys are delivered using a new patented protocol called ARQ19, which solves the “Global versus Trustless” problem which previously prevented the adoption of Satellite Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). Arqit further invented a method, called QuantumCloud™ to translate the benefits of this quantum key distribution to any form of endpoint or cloud machine without the need for any special hardware. The first version of QuantumCloudTM launches for live service to commercial customers in 2021.

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Report: Virgin Orbit Preparing to Go SPAC

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

Following in the footsteps of its sister company, Virgin Orbit is preparing to go public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Sky News reports.

Sky News can reveal that Virgin Orbit is close to finalising a deal to combine with NextGen Acquisition II, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) set up by George Mattson, a former Goldman Sachs banker.

Sources said this weekend that NextGen II was in exclusive talks with Sir Richard’s Low Earth Orbit satellite business, which is 80%-owned by the tycoon’s Virgin Group empire.

Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund, owns the remaining 20% of Virgin Orbit’s shares.

A definitive deal valuing Virgin Orbit at approximately $3bn (£2.1bn) could be announced in the coming weeks, according to insiders…

The choice of NextGen is a logical one, since Mr Mattson is a director of Virgin Galactic, and is an experienced aviation industry insider, having also been a director of Delta Air Lines for nearly nine years.

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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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