Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Joins Spaceflight’s Portfolio of Launch Vehicles for Small Satellite Rideshare

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

SEATTLE, WA and LONG BEACH, CA – June 25, 2018 (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight, the company reinventing the model for launching small satellites into space, and Virgin Orbit today announced they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a mission to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2019.

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl, a dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft, will carry LauncherOne (which will house Spaceflight’s customer smallsats) to an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet before release for its rocket-powered flight to orbit. The two-stage expendable rocket, which is currently in the final stages of qualification, can place about 300-500 kilograms into orbit. Virgin Orbit aims to conduct multiple missions to LEO in 2018.

Spaceflight has launched more than 140 satellites to date from a variety of launch vehicles including Falcon 9, PSLV, Dnepr, Antares, and Soyuz. It recently announced agreements for launches on Electron, Vega, and now LauncherOne.

“We’re continuing to provide the most options for customers to get their spacecraft into orbits that traditional rideshare cannot service,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight. “LauncherOne offers timely and targeted access to the equator and mid-latitudes, and we’re excited to provide this innovative service to our customers via this partnership with Virgin Orbit.”

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart added: “Spaceflight brings a proven track record of launch success, a vibrant international customer base, and a customer-centric approach to put together missions to LEO, GTO, GEO and beyond. This agreement further propels the smallsat revolution and gets us closer to realizing our vision of launching anyone, anywhere, any time.”

About Spaceflight

Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of spaceflight by delivering a new model for accessing space. A comprehensive launch services and mission management provider, the company provides a straightforward and cost-effective suite of products and services including state-of-the-art satellite infrastructure and rideshare launch offerings that enable commercial and government entities to achieve their mission goals on time and on budget. A service offering of Spaceflight Industries in Seattle Wash., Spaceflight provides its services through a global network of partners, ground stations and launch vehicle providers. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com.

About Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit provides dedicated, responsive, and affordable launch services for small satellites. Virgin Orbit is developing LauncherOne, a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, Cali., and will be air-launched from a dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Virgin Orbit’s systems are currently in an advanced stage of testing, with initial orbital launches expected soon. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit virginorbit.com.

  • Robert G. Oler

    wonder what the market for thisis

  • Michael Halpern

    For a company like Spaceflight who’s business is arranging for small satellites (generally from smaller companies and organizations or for lower budget projects) small launchers can provide schedule reliability and access to orbits less desirable to larger payloads, for direct customers, either you have a small sat you need in orbit soon, on short notice or you need a specific orbit and can’t afford a larger rocket.

    Spaceflight itself caters to those too small and inexperienced to organize ride share or a dedicated small launch themselves, however if they can get enough business, and enough capacity on larger vehicles, they can sell small launch capacity at a loss and still come out profitable on the basis that small launch provided schedule certainty and versatility makes their service more desirable.

  • Robert G. Oler

    see how it works out…they will be the first small sat launcher which is a sucess

  • Michael Halpern

    Spaceflight is pretty successful, already, they don’t just provide rideshare space and integration, they also aid in mission planning and legal stuff, they basically make getting small sats to orbit user friendly, and they have bought 3 electron rides

  • Robert G. Oler

    sorry I was referring to the Virgin launch system

  • Michael Halpern

    Ahh, like all small launchers, the market is to provide small satellites launch on demand and access to specific orbits you can only get as a primary payload, on a per launch basis they are cheaper, though on a per kg basis they don’t match reusable first stage vehicles, however if you can’t afford to wait potentially years for a rideshare opportunity or a large vehicle, or if said large vehicle isn’t available they are a good option. Small LVs target a certain niche where $/kg isn’t as big of a denominator when deciding LSP as much as other factors like time and specific orbit.

  • Robert G. Oler

    thanks I understand the concept. I will wait to see it successfull

  • Michael Halpern

    Likewise, personally I think that more companies like Spaceflight are needed to make it successful, not only to make them easier for their target market to access or even reliable business for the small rockets, but such companies can provide the service at a price somewhere in between that of traditional rideshare and the small rockets, and provide services that represent huge comparative overhead to small sat operators at a more reasonable expense than if the operator did that themselves.

  • envy

    If you need to launch 400 kg to LEO, it’s your cheapest option to get a launch where you’re the primary payload. It’s the same payload class as Pegasus, but about 1/4th the price.