Responsive Satellite Servicing and Sustainable Space Launches Get a Boost Through Astroscale, Virgin Orbit Partnership

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits, today announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Virgin Orbit, the responsive launch and space solutions company that has announced a planned business combination with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II (“NextGen”) (NASDAQ: NGCA).

The MOU establishes a new partnership in which the two companies will seek opportunities to cooperate on a series of space initiatives that will drive the future of space sustainability and on-orbit servicing ecosystem. Astroscale is planning dozens of missions over the next decade and is in discussions with Virgin Orbit to launch as many as 10 of those on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne. The two companies are also working toward a future joint mission concept focused on satellite servicing.

(more…)

UK Government Backs Space Technology to Tackle Climate Change

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Trailblazing technology that will help tackle climate change and predict global disasters using satellites is receiving new funding from the UK Space Agency.

Eleven UK organisations have been awarded a share of just under £7 million of government funding to put into action the latest advances in space innovation. The majority of the projects focus on climate change or environmental management, with others designed to secure our telecommunication systems and protect digital infrastructure against cyber-attacks.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit to Launch Again by End of Year

LauncherOne (Credit: Mojave)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Coming off flawless back-to-back launches, the Virgin Orbit team has settled into a steady flight preparation rhythm with LauncherOne. [Earlier today], the fully assembled rocket that will carry our next customers’ satellites to space has left our rocket factory in Long Beach and headed up to the bare concrete pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port that serves as all the spaceport we need. Already, the rocket has been mated to the customized 747 that serves as our flying launch pad, mobile mission control, and fully re-usable first stage all at once.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit, ANA Holdings Sign MOU for 20 Launches From Japanese Airport

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

ANA HOLDINGS, owner of ANA ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS (ANA), which has been awarded SKYTRAX’s respected 5-Star Rating every year since 2013, establishes a new space business as an exclusive distributor of Asia’s first air-launch service.

LONG BEACH, Calif., November 04 , 2021 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Orbit, the responsive launch and space solutions company that has announced a planned business combination with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II (“NextGen”) (NASDAQ: NGCA), today announced that it has entered into a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with ANA HOLDINGS INC., the owners of Japan’s largest airline, to procure twenty flights of the LauncherOne rocket and to lead the effort to provide funds and support for those orbital missions to launch from Japan’s Oita Prefecture. The terms of the MOU call for ANA HOLDINGS and several of its partners to fund the manufacturing of a new set of the mobile ground support equipment used to prepare Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system for flight from a pre-existing runway, with a target of making Oita a LauncherOne-ready spaceport by as soon as the end of 2022, pending appropriate regulatory approvals in the United States and Japan.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl Jetliner Prepares for Satellite Launch

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 flight. (Credit: Flight Aware)

Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl rehearsed an upcoming satellite launch over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday evening. The 3 hour plus flight originating and ending at the Mojave Air and Space Port involved flying what is called the race track near the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast.

Last month, Cosmic Girl was practicing nighttime touch-and-goes on Runway 12-30 at the spaceport. That indicates Virgin Orbit is gearing up for the first night launch of its LauncherOne satellite booster.

LauncherOne will launch the STP-27VPB mission for the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The rocket will also launch the PAN A and PAN B spacecraft, which are part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

The flight will be called Tubular Bells, Part 2 after a popular instrumental song of that name produced by Virgin Records. Tubular Bells, Part 1 was the name of the LauncherOne flight that orbited the STP-27VPA mission in June 2021.

Virgin Orbit successfully launched 10 microsatellites for NASA’s ELaNa program in January. It was the first successful flight of LauncherOne, which failed on its maiden launch in June 2020.

Mojave Spaceport Receives $5.9 Million for Improvements to Longest Runway

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft on runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port following a taxi test. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

MOJAVE, Calif. — The Mojave Air and Space Port has received a $5.9 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to rehabilitate and strengthen portions to Runway 12-30, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) announced.

(more…)

Brazil Modeled Updated Launch Licensing on FAA Regulations

Alcantara launch complex (Credit: AEB)

BRASILIA, Brazil (Brazil Space Agency PR) — The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB/MCTI) published Ordinance No. 698, of August 31, 2021, which institutes the Regulations for the Licensing of Space Activities Operator and for Launch Authorization in the Brazilian territory. The rules referring to the authorization of launch operations were published in 2002, making it necessary to update their rules.

(more…)

Environmental Review Paves Way for Virgin Orbit Launches From Guam

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An assessment has concluded that Virgin Orbit (VO) could conduct satellite launches out of Anderson Air Force Base on Guam without having any significant impact on the environment.

The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is a major step forward for Richard Branson’s company, which is seeking a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch from the U.S. island commonwealth. The finding eliminates the need to conduct a lengthier and more detailed environment impact statement.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit and Southwest Research Institute to Pursue Space Science Missions, Launches and Joint Space Service Offerings

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing a new collaboration with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), an independent, non-profit research and development organization. Under the terms of the agreement, Virgin Orbit and SwRI will explore multiple specialized mission opportunities using the LauncherOne system coupled with SwRI’s deep expertise in space mission development. Additionally, the two organizations will explore potential opportunities for joint manufacturing of SwRI’s space platforms and delivery of space services to Virgin Orbit’s customers. 

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Conducts Propulsion Tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center

Virgin Orbit, a satellite-launch company, conducts a Thrust Chamber Assembly test on the E-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center. The company partnered with Stennis to conduct a recently completed series of hot fire tests totaling a cumulative 974.391 seconds. (Credits: NASA/SSC)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — When Virgin Orbit, a satellite-launch company based in California, sought to expand its horizons, it was only natural for the company to think about NASA’s largest rocket engine test site – Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

(more…)

Ret. Brig. Gen. Mark Baird Becomes President of VOX Space

Mark Baird

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., August 17, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit is excited to announce that Brig. Gen. Mark Baird (US Air Force, retired) has been selected as the new President of VOX Space, the company’s wholly owned subsidiary that provides responsive, timely, dedicated, and affordable launch services for the national security community. In his new role, Mark will leverage more than 30 years of aerospace experience spanning both government and private entities to lead the VOX Space team forward as it builds on its early successes.

Entering the Air Force in 1989, Mark served the US’ national security space community for three decades, including positions as the Deputy Director of the National Reconnaissance Office; the Director of Space Acquisition for the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force; the Vice Commander of the US Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, and the Director of Space Superiority Systems. As the Deputy Director of the Space Force Planning Task Force at the Pentagon, Mark was responsible along with the Director for overseeing the detailed planning activities required to establish the U.S. Space Force, as well as all requisite activities from the US Air Force, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Executive Branch, and Congress.

(more…)

ESA’s Boost! Fosters New Launch and In-orbit Services

ESA aims to boost commercial initiatives that offer space transportation services to space, in space, and returning from space. (Credit: ESA – Flavie Mauvais)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Companies with small satellites are set to benefit from a new end-to-end space transportation service offering additional in-orbit flexibility proposed by D-Orbit and supported through ESA’s Boost! programme.

This commercial service proposal is the first within ESA’s Boost! programme to enable in-orbit transportation services.

(more…)

D-Orbit Signs Contract with ESA Under the Boost! Commercial Space Transportation Services

The UK branch of the orbital transportation company will focus on logistics coordination and process standardisation between different European spaceports and launcher providers

CORNWALL, UK, July 20th, 2021 (D-Orbit PR) — The UK branch of D-Orbit, a leader in the orbital transportation industry, has announced the signing of a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Boost! Project with ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme.

The Responsive Microlauncher Service, which provides end-to-end delivery of payloads in orbit, is designed to utilise the upcoming small launchers that are due to be launching regularly from UK starting from 2022. The contract will focus on logistics coordination and process standardisation between different European spaceports and launcher providers.

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Hires SpaceX Veteran as New VP of Flight and Launch

Tyler Grinnell (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Long Beach, Calif., June 25, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, announced today that it has selected Tyler Grinnell to serve as the team’s new Vice President of Flight and Launch. As Virgin Orbit works to further evolve its commercial launch services, Tyler will play a key role in enabling the Flight and Launch teams to achieve the operating pace and efficiencies required to serve the company’s growing customer manifest.

Tyler brings with him a decade and a half of aerospace experience, joining Virgin Orbit after spending 12 years at SpaceX, where he held a number of positions including Launch Engineer, Launch Lead Engineer for Instrumentation & Avionics, Lead Launch Operations Development Engineer, Senior Manager of Launch Operations Development, and most recently Director of Launch and Recovery Operations. 

(more…)

Virgin Orbit Updates Schedule for Next Week’s Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Virgin Orbit team is excited to share an update on timing for our upcoming mission, Tubular Bells: Part One!  

When

With wet dress rehearsal successfully completed, our team is proceeding through the final routine items on our pre-flight checklist. We’re coordinating with our stakeholders to identify the final preferred targets for launch, with an eye on June 30th or the early days of July.

We will only proceed with the mission if all conditions for launch are nominal. If for some reason the launch is delayed, we have backup windows extending through July.

Where

Our carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl will take off from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and will travel approximately 1 hour out to sea before releasing the rocket just off the Pacific coast.

Mission Manifest

A total of 7 satellites will fly on LauncherOne for Tubular Bells: Part One. The full list of customers onboard this mission includes:

  • The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching three CubeSat sets as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative. This launch, also known as STP-27VPA, was awarded to Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology into the U.S. military to strengthen national security.  
  • The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which is launching the Netherlands’ first military satellite, a CubeSat called BRIK II, built and integrated by Innovative Solutions in Space.
  • SatRevolution, which is launching the first two optical satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (A.K.A. MARTA), of the company’s 14-satellite STORK constellation.

How to Watch

For live updates as the flight progresses, please tune into our public livestream, which will be available on our YouTube. Alternatively, you can follow along with our live-tweets on Twitter (@VirginOrbit).