Virgin Orbit performed a key test of its LauncherOne air launch system July 10, dropping an inert vehicle from its carrier aircraft in one of the last milestones before the vehicle’s first orbital launch attempt.
The carrier aircraft for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system has performed a series of test flights in preparation for upcoming flights with the rocket attached.
Virgin Orbit has received a license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the first launch of its LauncherOne vehicle, which the company hopes to perform later this summer.
Virgin Orbit plans to offer customers a variety of services including responsive launch, maintenance of large satellite constellations and potentially debris removal.
Virgin Orbit, which expects to debut the air-launched LauncherOne rocket by summer, signed a contract Jan. 16 with GomSpace to send eight nanosatellites into orbit next year to track airplanes and ships.
Virgin Orbit announced Nov. 16 that it has received its first launch contract for a LauncherOne mission from a Defense Department agency.
Italian small satellite builder Sitael has signed Virgin Orbit to send a technology demonstration satellite into low-Earth orbit next year.
Advocates of small satellites argue that such systems could offer a much-need “layer of resiliency” for national security space applications for as little as one percent of current spending on such programs.
Virgin Galactic announced March 2 that it has picked a former Boeing space executive to lead its smallsat launch project, which is being spun out into a separate venture.
Virgin Galactic announced Dec. 3 that it has purchased a Boeing 747 jetliner to serve as the new carrier aircraft for its LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle.
Virgin Galactic announced Sept. 28 that it has made “significant progress” on the engines that it will use on its LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle, two weeks after the company said it was increasing the vehicle’s performance.