Virgin Orbit Partners to Use Japanese Airport for Launches

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 taxis down runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port with the LauncherOne booster under its wing. Northrop Grumman’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which also air launches the Pegasus XL rocket, can be seen in the background. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

OITA, Japan/LONG BEACH, Calif., April 2, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based small satellite launch company, has announced a new partnership with Oita Prefecture to bring horizontal launch to Japan.

With the support of regional partners ANA Holdings Inc. and the Space Port Japan Association, Virgin Orbit has identified Oita Airport as its preferred pilot launch site — yet another addition to the company’s growing global network of horizontal launch sites — in pursuit of a mission to space from Japan as early as 2022. 

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Virgin Galactic Supports its Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

George Whitesides

Message from George Whitesides
Virgin Galactic CEO

All over the globe, we are seeing and feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is one of the most significant crises we have seen in our lifetimes.  Whether it is the brave doctors and nurses working around the clock to help patients, children helping their elderly parents stay safe and fed, or parents and teachers keeping their kids educated while schools are physically closed – we are all in this together and we have a responsibility to help care for one another.

With the impact of COVID-19 mounting every day, our team has worked hard to help tackle this crisis, with an initial focus on the communities we work in.  I am proud of the commitment and initiative of our people at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, and Virgin Group in helping to support relief efforts.  Led by our in-house flight doctors, our COVID-19 team has been working closely with local hospitals, commercial suppliers, and government authorities to provide help where it is needed most.

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Virgin Orbit Designs New Mass Producible Ventilator of COVID-19 Patients

Bridge ventilator (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif., March 30, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR — Virgin Orbit has developed a new mass-producible bridge ventilator to help in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Virgin Orbit team has been consulting with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), led by the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a group formed to spawn and nurture efforts to build producible, simple ventilators to aid in the current COVID-19 crisis.

Pending clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Virgin Orbit aims to commence production at its Long Beach manufacturing facility in early April, sprinting to deliver units into the hands of first responders and healthcare professionals as soon as possible.

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Video: Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Taxi Test with LauncherOne Attached

Video Caption: Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 conducted a slow-speed taxi test down the runway with a fueled LauncherOne under its wing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on March 5, 2020. The test covered about 2 miles on runway 12-30.

The taxi test was a precursor to a flight test with a fueled booster for Sir Richard Branson’s launch company. LauncherOne is designed to orbit small satellites after being dropped from the modified Boeing airliner. Virgin Orbit plans to conduct a flight test of the booster for later this year.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Susan Mashiko Joins VOX Space Board of Directors

El SEGUNDO, Calif., March 9, 2020 (VOX Space PR) — VOX Space, the subsidiary of Virgin Orbit which provides responsive and affordable launch services for the U.S.’ national security community, has welcomed a new member to its board of directors, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Susan Mashiko.  

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Mashiko’s 35-year career in the U.S. Air Force has spanned a variety of space and acquisition assignments, including serving as Chief of the Programs Division in the Office of Special Projects and Director of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program. She also served as the Program Executive Officer for Environmental Satellites, MILSATCOM Wing Commander, Vice Commander of the Air Armament Center, Vice Commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, and Director of Space Acquisition in the Office of the Under Secretary of the Air Force.

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Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 Conducts Taxi Test with Launcher One

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 taxis down runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port with the LauncherOne booster under its wing. Northrop Grumman’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which also air launches the Pegasus XL rocket, can be seen in the background. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 aircraft conducted a low-speed taxi test down runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port on Thursday afternoon.

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 carries LauncherOne in a taxi test at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The aircraft taxied down the runway, turned around and returned. The Boeing 747 was then towed back to a concrete pad where it has sat for the last several weeks undergoing preparations for a taxi test and captive carry flight.

The LauncherOne booster can be seen under the left wing of Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Virgin Orbit has said that it needed to do a taxi test with a full fueled LauncherOne prior to doing a captive carry flight. It is not clear whether the booster was fueled. However, a hazardous operations notice to airmen (NOTAM) was not posted prior to the taxi test.

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 taxis down the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

LauncherOne is designed to orbit small satellites by air launching them over the ocean. A flight test of the booster is scheduled for later this year.

Support equipment for Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 aircraft and LauncherOne booster. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The aircraft and booster require a significant amount of support equipment as seen in the photo above.

DARPA Launch Challenge Nears End with Modified Rules, One Competitor

The DARPA Launch Challenge is nearing its end with modified rules and only one of three finalists left standing to win $12 million in prize money.

Astra Space will attempt to conduct two launches within days of each other from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island. The launches will take place from different pads at the spaceport and place satellites into different sun-synchronous trajectories.

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Astra Emerges From Stealth, Shooting for $1 Million Per Launch

Astra Introduction Video from Chris Kemp on Vimeo.

Ashlee Vance also has a story at Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-astra-rocket/

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Astra’s next launch is scheduled for Feb. 21 from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island;
  • previous two launches suffered in-flight failures;
  • payload will be up to 450 lb (204 kg) to low Earth orbit;
  • launch cost is $2.5 million, but Astra is working toward $1 million;
  • the company is using aluminum and simplified engines to keep costs down;
  • Astra has a staff of 150 people;
  • Former NASA Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Chris Kemp is CEO;
  • Astra’s CTO and co-founder is Adam London, who spent 12 years running Ventions;
  • The company has raised more than $100 million from investors;
  • Astra is the last of three companies standing in the DARPA Launch Challenge, under which it must launch twice from different locations in two weeks to win $12 million; and,
  • Other competitors included Vector Space, which has filed for bankruptcy, and Virgin Origin, which decided to pull out.

Virgin Orbit Moves Toward First Launch

Cosmic Girl with LauncherOne attached. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Virgin Orbit team has been firing on all cylinders as we button up our first orbital LauncherOne rocket and make final preparations for our upcoming launch demonstration.

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Virgin Orbit, ISI Partner to Develop Responsive Space Service

LauncherOne attached to Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

TEL AVIV, January 28, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR) Virgin Orbit, the California-based small satellite launch company, has signed an agreement with ImageSat International (ISI), a global leader in space-based intelligence solutions, to develop an end-to-end responsive space service offering focused on national security customers. The joint turnkey service, announced at the 15th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference during Israel Space Week, would take advantage of the responsive and flexible capabilities of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system to rapidly deploy ISI’s high-resolution Earth observation small satellites.

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Report: Virgin Orbit Flight Test Set for This Month

LauncherOne attached to Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Forbes reports that Virgin Orbit plans to conduct a flight test of LauncherOne later this month:

A spokesperson from the company confirmed that Virgin Orbit will perform its first orbital test flight in January. And if all goes well, the company aims to turn around and launch its first customer payload shortly thereafter, likely in February. The customer for that launch is NASA, and Virgin Orbit plans to deliver 10 small satellites from the space agency’s ELaNa project, which works with universities and high schools to put student-designed research missions into space.

We’ll see if they make this schedule. They have been overly optimistic before.

Rocket Lab Moves Headquarters to Long Beach

Electron lifts off with DARPA’s R3D2 satellite. (Credits: Kieran Fanning, Sam Tom)

Rocket Lab is moving its corporate headquarters up the California coastline to the same Long Beach business park that houses one of its main rivals, Virgin Orbit.

The Long Beach Business Journal reports the small satellite launch company is moving into the Douglas Park development from its current home in Huntington Beach. The company has leased 87,605-square-foot building.

Rocket Lab is the third launch provider to move to the park. Virgin Orbit established its operations there in 2015. SpinLaunch signed a lease in Douglas Park two months ago.

Rocket Lab is preparing for the 10th launch of its Electron launch vehicle later this week from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

Virgin Galactic has not yet flown its LauncherOne booster, which is dropped from a modified Boeing 747. SpinLaunch rocket is also still in development.

NASA Selects TriSept to Support New Round of CubeSat Missions

CHANTILLY, Va., December 2, 2019 (TriSept PR) – TriSept Corporation, a leading provider of launch integration, management and brokerage services for commercial and government missions, today announced that it has been selected as a preferred provider to support NASA’s third round of CubeSat missions with dispenser hardware and integration services.

As part of a five year, $18 million NASA indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, TriSept will be considered for CubeSat mission integration services and dispenser hardware procurement in support of upcoming CubeSat launches through 2025.

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Cornwall Council Approves $13.2 Million Grant for Virgin Orbit Project

Cosmic Girl performs first captive carry with LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Over strenuous environmental protests, the Cornwall Council approved a £10.3 million ($13.2 million) grant to fund improvements at Cornwall Airport Newquay to accommodate air launches by Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit.

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UK Space Agency Awards £7.35 million to Virgin Orbit to Support Cornwall Operations

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 performs its first captive carry of LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

SWINDON, UK (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency will award £7.35 million [$9.44 million] to Virgin Orbit UK Limited, the UK branch of US launch operator Virgin Orbit, to enable horizontal launch of small satellites at Cornwall Airport Newquay, it was confirmed today (Tuesday 5 November).

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