Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit announced a set of agreements July 6 with Italian companies and the Italian Space Agency that could lead to suborbital and orbital launches from a proposed Italian spaceport.
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 is planning a key test of its LauncherOne vehicle as soon as next week, a final step before the vehicle’s first launch later this summer.
Virgin Orbit’s campaign to design, build and fly LauncherOne, its air-launched rocket for small satellites, relies heavily on manufacturing software.
Virgin Orbit plans to offer customers a variety of services including responsive launch, maintenance of large satellite constellations and potentially debris removal.
Companies that are developing small launch vehicles or who provide rideshare launch services say they expect new Chinese launch vehicles to drive down launch prices, raising concerns among some of unfair competition.
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.
The Virgin Group announced Oct. 26 an agreement with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund for an investment of $1 billion into Virgin’s suborbital and orbital space ventures.
Virgin Orbit, before being spun off from human spaceflight-focused Virgin Galactic in March, had set out to complete around three test flights of LauncherOne, before ramping up for commercial operations.
An Orbital ATK Minotaur 4 rocket lifted off from Cape Canveral, Florida, early Saturday morning, carrying the U.S. Defense Department's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite. The launch comes as a debate is flaring up again about whether companies should be able to use converted surplus intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) motors to launch commercial satellites
Italian small satellite builder Sitael has signed Virgin Orbit to send a technology demonstration satellite into low-Earth orbit next year.
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.