The U.K. Space Agency will provide $9.5 million for infrastructure at a British airport that seeks to host Virgin Orbit’s air-launch system.
Virgin Orbit, while preparing for the first flight of its LauncherOne smallsat rocket, is in the process of choosing an engine for a three-stage variant that would be capable of sending payloads to other planets.
A three-way launch contest is now down to one unidentified company after two competitors backed out, DARPA announced Oct. 22.
Richard Branson headlines Air Force event, pitches Virgin Orbit’s capabilities for national security
Branson: “Hopefully that will be a deterrent to an enemy state to not knock out satellites if America has a capability to replace them within 24 hours."
Megaconstellation startup OneWeb asked a court to dismiss a June lawsuit by Virgin Orbit, claiming that it doesn’t accurately portray a 2015 launch contract.
As Virgin Orbit prepares to attempt its first orbital launch later this year, the company is offering a long-term vision of using multiple planes flying from multiple spaceports to be able to deploy an entire constellation within hours.
The U.K. will invest $34 million in small satellites, will increase support for the Combined Space Operations Center.
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.
According to a complaint Virgin Orbit filed June 4 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, OneWeb canceled 35 of its planned 39 launches last June, triggering a $70 million termination fee.
The U.K. Space Agency and a local government announced plans June 4 to invest in facilities at a British airport to support launch operations by Virgin Orbit.
Startups in the burgeoning small launch vehicle market acknowledge that only a handful of vehicles will survive a likely shakeout, driven more by commercial rather than government demand.
German launch services provider Exolaunch announced a memorandum of understanding April 11 with Virgin Orbit to send satellites into space as early as 2020 on LauncherOne dedicated and rideshare missions.
Three launch vehicle developers, one of which is still in stealth mode, have qualified to compete in a DARPA competition in early 2020 to demonstrate responsive launch capabilities.