Long Beach, California – A Virgin Orbit executive indicated on May 25 that the company aims to launch its first satellite from England in late August, subject the award of a British launch license.
Jim Simpson, Virgin Orbit’s chief strategy officer, said the company was preparing for the late August launch during a keynote at the Space Tech Expo here. It will follow the “Straight Up” launch from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, which is slated for no early than June 29 and will carry seven US federal payloads.
“The UK launch is scheduled for late August.” That is the current plan,” he stated. The company has an export control license from the US government and has completed the “majority” of the work required for a British government launch license through the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK’s equivalent of the FAA.
“That’s all done, effectively,” he said, though he didn’t mention when the formal launch license would be awarded. The CAA will also require Spaceport Cornwall, the English airfield that will host Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, to obtain a license.
“We’re quite enthusiastic.” “This will be the first orbital launch ever launched from British soil,” he said. “It will demonstrate a variety of things, including our system’s mobility.”
The payloads for that mission have been chosen, according to Simpson, albeit not all have been announced yet.
Two of the payloads are Prometheus 2 CubeSats, which were produced in collaboration with the National Reconnaissance Office by the UK Ministry of Defence. Amber-1, a maritime tracking CubeSat developed by Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies; Forgestar-0, a satellite built by British space manufacturing startup Space Forge; Kernow Sat 1, a CubeSat backed by the local Cornish government for environmental monitoring; and a CubeSat built by SatRevolution for the government of Oman are among the others that have been announced.
Plans for expansion
LauncherOne is an air-launch device that uses a Boeing 747 aircraft to launch a rocket. That rocket can carry up to 300 kilograms to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit, but Simpson said that by the end of 2023, modifications will increase that capacity to around 350 kg.
Other, longer-term upgrades that the firm has hinted at in previous presentations were also discussed. One of them is attempting to rescue the rocket’s first stage. He showed a picture of a stage dropping under a parachute and stated, “We’re doing the trades now.”
The business has been considering two alternatives for a third stage, one of which is a solar-electric transfer vehicle being researched with ExoTerra as part of a NASA SBIR grant. Last year, the companies stated the stage could transport up to 180 kilograms to geostationary orbit and 150 kilos to cislunar routes.
The business is also considering a potential “LauncherTwo” rocket that would be positioned on top of the fuselage rather than beneath the wing of the Boeing 747. According to Simpson’s PowerPoint, that vehicle may perform three times better than LauncherOne.
“We’re continually changing the future while producing launch vehicles,” he remarked.
Virgin orbit : space