Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is Seeking Investors

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)

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is look for investors. The company posted the following notice on its website:

Virgin Orbit LLC, (together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, the “Company”), is exploring a possible transaction and has retained LionTree Advisors LLC (“LionTree”) and Perella Weinberg Partners LP (“PWP”) (together, the “Financial Advisors”).

The website includes a link to a password protected presentation that potential investors can review.

Virgin Orbit is developing LauncherOne, a small-satellite booster that is air launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner.

Virgin Orbit’s first launch attempt failed in late May when the rocket’s engine stopped about five seconds after it began firing. The company is planning another launch attempt later this year.

The travel-heavy Virgin Group has been struggling to fund its companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinese Rocket Company LandSpace Raises $175 Million

Landspace Zhuque-1 booster (Credit: Landspace)

Chinese launch company LandSpace announced on Wednesday that it has completed a series C+ funding round valued at $175 million (1.2 billion yuan) to fund its Zhuque-2 booster.

Landspace raised $73 million (500 million yuan) in a C round last December.

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Exolaunch Signs Agreement with Rocket Factory Augsburg to Supply Commercial Launch Services

RFA One launcher in flight (Credit: Rocket Factory)

BERLIN, Germany (Exolaunch PR) – EXOLAUNCH, a Berlin-based rideshare launch and deployment solutions provider, signed a wide-ranging MOU with Germany-based launch service provider, Rocket Factory Augsburg AG (RFA), to provide end-to-end launch services for small satellites, with Exolaunch procuring launch capacities from RFA.

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DLR Microlauncher Competition: Three Teams are One Round Ahead

  • Jury chaired by Thomas Jarzombek (Member of the German Bundestag), the federal government’s coordinator for aerospace, nominated HyImpulse Technologies GmbH, Rocket Factory Augsburg AG and Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH.
  • A total of 25 million euros are available for the main round of the DLR space management microlauncher competition for the development of commercial launch services into space.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Three teams are with Microlauncher competition of the DLR space management one round further.

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CSA Awards Additional Space Technology Development Contracts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded an additional 10 contracts worth nearly CAD $4.49 million (US $3.3 million) to eight companies under its Space Technology Development Program (STDP).

The awards were in addition to 14 STDP contracts worth just over CAD $9 million (US $6.6 million) the space agency awarded to eight companies last month.

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CNES Conducts R&D Challenge for Future Launch Systems

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Wednesday, 24 June, research laboratories, start-ups, PMEs and other firms presented their work contributing to the launch systems of the future to a top-level audience. In all, €750,000 worth of CNES contracts were awarded to the laureates, which each received €50,000 or €100,000 to develop their solutions.

At its Innovation Day on 7 February in Toulouse, CNES announced a Launchers R&D Challenge under its Connect by CNES initiative, in partnership with ArianeGroup and ESA, designed to ease access to funding for launch systems.

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Video of Virgin Orbit LauncherOne’s Abbreviated Flight

Nine seconds.

That’s how long the flight of LauncherOne lasted from being dropped from the Boeing 747 to its engine crapping out.

Virgin Orbit explained on its website:

For about 9 seconds after drop, the flight went perfectly. Through some of the most challenging portions of our flight — release, the controlled drop, the rocket’s ignition sequence, and the initial portion of guided, powered flight — every part of our system did exactly as we designed it to do. We have solid data from hundreds of channels and sensors — and in looking at those, we see performance that is well-matched to our predictions and to the extensive data we have from our models and ground tests. This means that we have proved out via flight the foundational principles of our air-launch operations, which is the key thing that separates us from our peers in the industry.

About 9 seconds after drop, something malfunctioned, causing the booster stage engine to extinguish, which in turn ended the mission. We cannot yet say conclusively what the malfunction was or what caused it, but we feel confident we have sufficient data to determine that as we continue through the rigorous investigation we’ve already begun. With the engine extinguished, the vehicle was no longer able to maintain controlled flight — but the rocket did not explode. It stayed within the predicted downrange corridors of our projections and our Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launch license as the vehicle fell to the ocean, posing no risk to public safety, no danger our aircrew or aircraft, and no significant environmental impact.

There’s more on the website about what the company achieved despite the failure on Monday. There’s lots of data to go over before the next launch attempt.

Virgin Orbit Press Release on LauncherOne Failure

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)

Mojave, Calif., May 25, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, conducted a launch demonstration of its innovative air-launched rocket today in the skies over the Pacific Ocean just off the California coast. The company successfully completed all of its pre-launch procedures, the captive carry flight out to the drop site, clean telemetry lock from multiple dishes, a smooth pass through the racetrack, terminal count, and a clean release. After being released from the carrier aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket successfully lighted its booster engine on cue — the first time the company had attempted an in-air ignition. An anomaly then occurred early in first stage flight, and the mission safely terminated. The carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl and all of its crew landed safely at Mojave Air and Space Port, concluding the mission.

“Our team performed their prelaunch and flight operations with incredible skill today. Test flights are instrumented to yield data and we now have a treasure trove of that. We accomplished many of the goals we set for ourselves, though not as many as we would have liked,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “Nevertheless, we took a big step forward today.  Our engineers are already poring through the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will learn, adjust, and begin preparing for our next test, which is coming up soon.”

The company’s next rocket is in final stages of integration at its Long Beach manufacturing facility, with a half-dozen other rockets for subsequent missions not far behind. Virgin Orbit’s decision to begin production of multiple rockets well in advance of this test flight will enable the team to progress to the next attempt at a significantly faster pace, shortly after making any necessary modifications to the launch system.

Panasonic Provides In-flight Connectivity for Virgin Orbit Launches

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (Panasonic PR) — Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) has been selected by Virgin Orbit to provide inflight connectivity for its airborne rocket launch platform.

Panasonic’s latest generation high-speed inflight connectivity system has been installed on Cosmic Girl, the modified Boeing 747-400 that serves as the carrier aircraft for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system. Virgin Orbit is currently undergoing final rehearsals for an orbital launch demonstration expected soon.

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Virgin Orbit Scrubs Launch for Sunday

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

UPDATE: Virgin Orbit will attempt a launch on Monday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. PDT.

Virgin Orbit has scrubbed the maiden flight of its LauncherOne booster that had been planned for Sunday over the Pacific Ocean.

The company tweeted that engineers discovered a problem with a sensor after fueling the booster at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, They drained the fuel and are addressing the problem.

Virgin Galactic has a backup launch date on Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The company has not yet confirmed that it will attempt a launch tomorrow.

LauncherOne will attempt to place an inert mass into orbit.

Ken Brown and I will be in Mojave to cover the takeoff and landing of the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 aircraft.

SpaceX Senior VP Jumps to Relativity Space Startup

Zachary Dunn

One of the lesser known aspects of SpaceX’s rise to the top of the space industry is how the company has seeded other companies with experienced personnel.

Throughout its existence, SpaceX has had fairly high employee turnover. People work at Elon Musk’s company and move on for reasons ranging from being fired or laid off to getting burned out from long hours to becoming frustrated over relatively low pay to simply wanting to do something else.

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Virgin Orbit Maiden Launch Set for Sunday

Cosmic Girl with LauncherOne under its wing. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit will attempt to air launch its LauncherOne rocket for the first time on Sunday, CNBC reports.

The website says the company’s Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 will take off with the rocket under its wing from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 1 p.m. and head out to the Pacific Ocean.

Parabolic Arc will be in Mojave to cover the takeoff and landing. Look for updates on Twitter @spacecom.

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Skyrora Completes UK’s First Complete Ground Rocket Test in 50 Years

Slylark-L hot fire (Credit: Skyrora)

EDINBURGH, Scotland, 20 May 2020 (Skyrora PR) – The UK’s Space race heats up as Skyrora effectively made the UK ready for launching rockets into space after a team successfully built a mobile launch complex and completed a full static fire test with the Skylark L rocket on it – in only five days.

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Japan Test Fires Engine for New H3 Launch Vehicle

H3 launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Japan continues to make progress toward the first flight of its new H3 launch vehicle with a successful test firing of the booster’s LE-9 first-stage engine on April 30.

JAXA reports that the engine fired for the planned duration of 240 seconds (4 minutes) at the space agency’s Tanegashima Space Center. It was the seventh hot fire of the new engine, which is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

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