LIVERMORE, Calif. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory PR) — The population of human-made satellites orbiting Earth has skyrocketed over the past 60 years. Launches nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, and a significant contributor to this growth has been the development and implementation of small satellites that are easier and less expensive to build and more cost efficient to launch than conventional ones. Today, the hottest destination for these spacecraft is low-Earth orbit (LEO)—in the range of a few hundred kilometers above the planet’s surface.
GLOUCESTERSHIRE,England, 19 July 2019 (Virgin Orbit PR) —Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, announced today that it has been selected by the U.K.’s Royal Air Force (RAF) to provide responsive launch capabilities for a small satellite constellation Operational Capability Demonstrator through a new RAF project named “ARTEMIS.”
First announced by Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt yesterday at the Air and Space Power Conference, the ultimate goal of ARTEMIS is to demonstrate the utility of small satellites and responsive launch to provide information to the RAF and allied personnel on operationally relevant timelines. Secretary Mordaunt confirmed that the department has already committed £30 million ($33.6 million) to fast-track the ARTEMIS program.
UK Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt announced a plan on Thursday to loan a Royal Air Force test pilot to Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, apparently so the aviator can earn astronaut wings with Virgin Galactic.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The LauncherOne test program is moving really quickly now in the run-up to our first orbital test flight, as we finalize integration of the test rocket (more on that below) and continue to bang out flight test after flight test. With three successful heavyweight flights now under our belt, we’re soaring higher than a moonsault off the top rope!
As we previously reported, Stratolaunch is up for sale. Paul Allen’s sister Jody Allen, the executor of her brother’s estate, has no interest in continuing the development of the giant airplane, which is designed to air launch rockets.
CNBC reports on the eye popping price tag:
Holding company Vulcan is seeking to sell Stratolaunch for $400 million, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. Vulcan is the investment conglomerate of late billionaire Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder. Allen died last October following complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The hefty price tag includes ownership of the airplane as well as the intellectual property and facilities.
Stratolaunch is the world’s largest airplane by wingspan, which stretches 385 feet — longer than an American football field. The plane is powered by six jet engines salvaged from Boeing 747 aircraft.
Allen’s vision of a massive plane that can launch rockets from the air was at least partially fulfilled in April, when Stratolaunch flew for the first time after about eight years in development. Based at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, the giant airplane flew for more than two hours before landing after what was deemed a successful first flight.
CORNWALL, United Kingdom (Virgin Orbit PR) — For a while now, we’ve been working with our friends in Cornwall on the prospect of using LauncherOne to bring launch back to Britain. Today, that project took a massive step forward, as the U.K. Space Agency announced it aims to invest £7.8m (~$10 million) into the development of Spaceport Cornwall as a key operating hub for horizontal launch system, working towards a first launch from British soil in the early 2020’s.
TOKYO and LONG BEACH, Calif., 6 June 2019 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, announced today that it has signed an agreement with ANA Holdings (hereinafter “ANA HD”), parent company of All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, to bring the company’s LauncherOne service to Japan.
Subject to U.S. Government regulatory approvals, Virgin Orbit’s unique and responsive system — which uses a 747 widebody jet as a “flying launch pad” for its rocket — will complement existing Japanese ground launch vehicles, enabling near-term access to space by the private sector, helping to grow the country’s burgeoning small satellite ecosystem, and helping to elevate Japan as the premier space transport hub in Asia.
Our pilots and launch engineers are all smiles after another successful test flight, this one with a fully-loaded #LauncherOne rocket under the wing of our 'flying launch pad.' Here's a taste of the beautiful views today in the skies above @MojaveAirportpic.twitter.com/esNkpyOb0l
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — At the heart of future rocket engines lifting off to the Moon or Mars could be a 3D printed combustion chamber. Multiple NASA centers partnered with Virgin Orbit to develop and test a uniquely manufactured rocket part.
During a recent integration exercise, we verified that in addition to our already vetted order of operations, we are *also* able to mate the payload fairing to LauncherOne while the rocket is attached to Cosmic Girl’s wing. So why is this important? pic.twitter.com/vigmDwzt91
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (EXOLAUNCH PR) – April 11, 2019. EXOLAUNCH, a leading Germany-based launch services provider and cluster integrator for small satellites, and Virgin Orbit, a California-based launch vehicle provider for small satellites, today announced the signing of an MOU for transporting EXOLAUNCH customers’ payloads on dedicated and rideshare missions with Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne as early as 2020.
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.
Just completed the last hotfire of the NewtonThree engine we’ll use to fly to space next year! Demonstrating full thrust, gimbal and throttle range of this piece of flight hardware is the perfect way to close a year of incredible progress for our team. Here’s raw footage: pic.twitter.com/TblSacONPb
Video Caption: For years, tiny CubeSat satellites could only fly into space as hitchhikers, riding along with larger, primary payloads. Now, thanks to Venture Class Launch Services, these small packages of big science are getting their own rides into space on dedicated rockets — and on their own terms. Rocket Lab USA of Huntington Beach, California, and Virgin Orbit of Long Beach, California, are the two companies poised to propel CubeSats from coach class to first class.
VICTORVILLE, Calif., 19 November 2018 (Virgin Orbit PR) — This Sunday, a new sight appeared in the baby-blue skies over Southern California: A specially modified 747-400 carrying a 70-foot-long rocket under its wing soared through the air as part of a successful test flight for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne. Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company completed a flawless test flight, proving that its carbon-fiber two-stage rocket works perfectly as a pair with Cosmic Girl, the customized former passenger aircraft that serves as the company’s ‘flying launch pad.’ The successful test puts more air under the wings—and fins—of the company’s plans to reach orbit in early 2019.