Executives with several major small launch vehicle companies say both the economic repercussions of the pandemic and the growing interest by the U.S. government in such vehicles could reshape the industry.
The first flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket failed to reach orbit in May when a propellant line broke seconds after the ignition of the rocket’s first stage engine, the company’s chief executive said July 22.
NASA plans to issue multiple contracts in the coming months for smallsat launch services in the second phase of a program intended to support the emerging small launch vehicle industry.
The first half of 2020 has been sluggish for the commercial launch industry, but its problems can’t be explained solely by the coronavirus pandemic.
Virgin Orbit announced May 20 it will make the first flight of its LauncherOne air-launched vehicle as soon as May 24, but is setting modest expectations about the probability of success.
VOX says launching from Guam allows LauncherOne to serve all orbital inclinations.
Virgin Orbit completed a captive carry test flight of its LauncherOne system April 12, the final major milestone before the company performs its first orbital launch attempt.
The contract is for three dedicated launches to deliver 44 small satellites to low Earth orbit.
Virgin Orbit announced April 2 it has identified an airport in Japan as a potential site for launch operations, joining airports in the United States and Great Britain as hosts for the air-launch company.
If the design is approved, Virgin Orbit said it can start producing ventilators in April.
Virgin Orbit’s space launch business deemed ‘essential service,’ work allowed to continue at Long Beach
Virgin Orbit spokesman: “Unavoidably, this will have some impact on our launch date, and on the launches that immediately follow."
Virgin Orbit spokesman: "We are assessing things daily and keeping momentum up as best we can."