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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Military Smallsat Launch Contracts Withdrawn, Future Remains Uncertain

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

Easy come, uneasy go.

Last month, the Department of Defense announced it would award two rideshare launch contracts apiece to Aevum, Astra, Rocket Lab, Space Vector, X-BOW and Virgin Orbit’s subsidiary VOX Space.

Earlier this month, however, the contract awards were withdrawn so the $116 million in funding could be used for other priorities. The money came from the Defense Production Act, which is designed to help companies struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

C4ISRnet quotes Will Roper, Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, as saying the contracts could be awarded again.

“My hope is that whenever there’s new [Defense Production Act] Title 3 funding or when resource frees up due to other efforts not executing as planned, that those [contracts] are the first to go back into the hopper,” Roper told reporters Tuesday.

“If I were asked today to put in one new Title 3 initiative, it’s small launch because I think it’s going to be an amazing industry base for this country, and if properly influenced, my military mission can be highly disruptive in future war fighting, especially if satellites can be put up in a very responsive way that changes the calculus for holding space assets at risk.”

Of the six companies, only Rocket Lab has launched satellites into orbit. Astra has failed in several launch attempts. The maiden flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne failed in late May.

Aevum, Space Vector and X-BOW have not made any orbital launch attempts.

SMC Announces Plan to Award Contracts for 12 Rideshare Launches to 6 Companies

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

In an effort to support its industrial based during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has announced its intention to award 12 small satellite rideshare launches to six companies.

The awards will be made to:

  • Aevum
  • Astra
  • Rocket Lab USA
  • Space Vector
  • VOX Space
  • X-Bow.
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VOX Space Finalizes Plans to Launch From Quam

Cosmic Girl with a fueled LauncherOne on approach to Mojave on April 12, 2020. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., May 7, 2020 (VOX Space PR) — VOX Space, the Virgin Orbit subsidiary which provides responsive and affordable launch services for the U.S. national security community, has signed a new agreement with the Department of the Air Force, allowing the company’s LauncherOne system to conduct missions to space from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

VOX Space President Mandy Vaughn and U.S. Air Force 36th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Gentry Boswell, signed the Commercial Space Operations Support Agreement (COSOSA) Annex in early April, setting the stage for the STP-27VP mission, VOX Space’s first launch from Andersen Air Force Base.

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Virgin Orbit Subsidiary to Launch 3 Missions for U.S. Space Force

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

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., April 10, 2020 (VOX Space PR) — VOX Space, the Virgin Orbit subsidiary which provides responsive and affordable launch services for the U.S. national security community, has been selected to launch three dedicated missions for the U.S. Space Force (USSF), delivering multiple spacecraft to orbit for the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program-S28 (STP-S28). This launch service contract — awarded by the USSF Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) Office in Albuquerque, NM — is the first task order under the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract. 

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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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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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USAF Selects 8 Companies to Compete for Launch Contracts

The U.S. Air Force has selected eight companies to compete for $986 worth of launch contracts under its Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) program. The companies include:

  • Aevum Inc., Huntsville, Ala.;
  • Firefly Black LLC, Cedar Park, Texas;
  • Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Chandler, Ariz.;
  • Rocket Lab USA Inc., Huntington Beach, Calif.;
  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, Calif.;
  • United Launch Alliance, Centennial, Colo.;
  • VOX Space LLC., El Segundo, Calif.;
  • Xbow Launch Systems Inc., Auburn, Calif.;

“The contract seeks to capitalize on the emerging small launch providers while providing dedicated and primary launch services to the Department of Defense and other government agencies,” the U.S. Air Force said in announcing the selections.

“The program allows for the rapid acquisition of launch services to meet mission requirements for payloads greater than 400 pounds, enabling launch to any orbit within 12-24 months from task order award,” the announcement added.

The eight companies will be competitive for indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contracts under OSP-4.

Virgin Orbit Adds Guam as Launch Site

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

LONG BEACH, Calif., 10 April 2019 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, announced today that the Pacific island of Guam will become an additional launch site for the company’s LauncherOne service. With its remote location and close proximity to the equator, Guam serves as an excellent base of operations from which the company’s unique, 747-launched rocket can efficiently serve all inclinations, a boon to the rapidly expanding small satellite market. Most excitingly, the new location enables LauncherOne to deliver more than 450 kg to a 500 km equatorial orbit.

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Virgin Orbit, Vector and Mystery Stealth Company Qualify for DARPA Launch Challenge

Credit: DARPA

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — The DARPA Launch Challenge aims to fundamentally shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible, and responsive launch of small payloads. Three competitors successfully completed the qualification phase and will attempt to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within a matter of weeks. Teams will receive notice of the first launch site a few weeks prior to launch and exact details on the payload and intended orbit just days before launch. DARPA is targeting both launches for early 2020.

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A Closer Look at National Space Council User’s Advisory Group Nominees


So, I finally had a chance to go through folks that Vice President Mike Pence nominated to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Below is my attempt to break down the 29 nominees by category. It’s far from perfect because several of them could easily be listed under multiple categories. But, here’s my best shot at it.

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VOX Space Wins Defense Contract

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Orbit has received a Department of Defense (DOD) launch contract for its LauncherOne booster, the company announced this week.

“Their Space Test Program will fly some technology development payloads on our rocket as early as January 2019,” the company announced on Twitter.

LauncherOne will be air-launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner. The first flight test is expected to occur in 2018.

The contract, which came through the VOX Space subsidiary that handles government work, came through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).

“We provide non-dilutive capital in the form of pilot contracts for commercial innovation that solves Dept. of Defense (DoD) problems. And we do so quickly, usually in under 90 days,” according to DIUx’s website. “Pilot contracts can include hardware, software, or unique services. More importantly, after a successful pilot, the company involved and any DoD entity can easily enter into follow-on contracts, just as fast.”

DIUx has also provided capital to two other space companies: Capella Space, a satellite company that uses synthetic aperture radar to provide Earth imagery that is based on Palo Alto, Calif.; and Orbital Insight, which provides geospatial data analytics that is based in Moutain View, Calif.











Virgin Orbit Creates Subsidiary to Focus on National Security Launches

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Orbit has created a subsidiary to focus on launching national security payloads aboard its LauncherOne booster. According to VOX Space’s web site:

VOX Space, LLC is a US-incorporated, wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, LLC. VOX Space provides the national security community of the USA and allied nations with responsive, dedicated, and affordable launch services for small satellites bound for Low Earth Orbit. Headquartered in Manhattan Beach, California, VOX Space can provide study, analysis, integration, and launch services using Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, while ensuring our customer’s critical information is protected.