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The National Reconnaissance Office Is Partnering With the UK’s Ministry of Defence on Historic Mission Aboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne

By David Bullock
Parabolic Arc
June 28, 2022
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Virgin Orbit’s first international commercial rocket launch will carry a joint U.K. and U.S. mission scheduled for takeoff later this year.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) announces today that it will carry a joint mission between the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the United States’ National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in its historic flight out of Newquay Airport in Cornwall, England later this year. It will be the first rocket launch from British soil, and the first commercial launch from Western Europe.

Virgin Orbit will send two satellites to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) using the LauncherOne launch platform aboard Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747 aircraft. The Prometheus 2 CubeSats will provide a test platform for monitoring radio signals including GPS and sophisticated imaging, expected to pave the way for a more collaborative and connected space communication system with our allies.

The mission’s objective is to allow the MOD to better understand how the U.K. and international partners can work together to create a more capable and flexible system at a lower cost than could be achieved alone. The technology onboard the satellites is designed to identify new techniques and algorithms for operating satellites and data processing.

Virgin Orbit’s first overseas flight will be the launcher’s sixth consecutive mission carrying commercial and government customers since it began operations in 2021, demonstrating its capability to launch from any 747 capable airfield globally. Virgin Orbit has been working closely with the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the RAF, and the Spaceport Cornwall team to make all necessary preparations for liftoff. This launch of LauncherOne expands the NRO’s innovative launch capabilities as the NRO’s first-ever horizontal launch.

“This is a superb example of growing U.K.-U.S. space cooperation,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “We believe the Cornwall mission will provide a demonstration of the flexibility and mobility of the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne platform. We are honored to support the U.K. on this, the first orbital launch in history from British soil. We look forward to continuing to support the NRO, the MOD, and allied counties as they form closer partnerships, drive innovation, and expand collaboration in space.”

The launch service was acquired from Virgin Orbit National Systems, Virgin Orbit’s U.S. subsidiary, as the first task order on the NRO’s Streamlined Launch Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contract (SLIC).

“We could not be more excited to support our National Security Space and U.K. mission partners in this incredible, historic launch,” said Virgin Orbit National Systems President Mark Baird. “We believe the ‘Anytime, Anywhere, Unwarned’ capability that we are driving to bring to the U.S. and our Allied partners is a game changer, and we are all in to make this a resounding success.”

About Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) operates one of the most flexible and responsive space launch systems ever built. Founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017, the company began commercial service in 2021, and has already delivered commercial, civil, national security, and international satellites into orbit. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are air-launched from a modified 747-400 carrier aircraft that allows Virgin Orbit to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Learn more at and visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @virginorbit, and on Instagram @virgin.orbit.

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