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

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 27, 2021
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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. 

Virgin Orbit is developing partnerships to offer customers turnkey bundled services. Virgin Orbit and SwRI are particularly interested in collaborating on stewardship programs that would leverage space data to inform critical decisions around weather and for environmental monitoring purposes.

As part of the agreement, Virgin Orbit will assess the possibility of manufacturing SwRI Space Vehicle platforms at the company’s manufacturing hub in Long Beach, CA. Virgin Orbit and SwRI will also evaluate opportunities to jointly develop and launch missions to space, including the deployment of satellite constellations, to provide comprehensive space service offerings to customers.

“As the Virgin Orbit team works to build on our recent successes, we’re excited to join forces with organizations like SwRI to propel forward our mission of opening space for good. We’re especially looking forward to combining our uniquely responsive air launch capabilities with SwRI’s broad spacecraft expertise to provide turnkey solutions for our most pressing environmental challenges,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.

This past June, Virgin Orbit completed its second successful flight to space, Tubular Bells: Part One, which delivered several payloads for the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program to a precise target orbit.


Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites. Designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, LauncherOne rockets are air-launched from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft – allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit


Southwest Research Institute is a premier independent, nonprofit research and development organization using multidisciplinary services to provide solutions to some of the world’s most challenging scientific and engineering problems. Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, our client-focused, client-funded organization occupies more than 1,500 acres, providing more than 2.3 million square feet of laboratories, test facilities, workshops, and offices for approximately 3,000 employees who perform contract work for government and industry clients. Visit: