Commercial spaceline Virgin Galactic announced today that global communications company Sky and Space Global (ASX:SAS) has signed a binding launch services agreement to purchase four dedicated missions on the LauncherOne system. Speaking at the World Satellite Business Week event in Paris, officials from the two companies revealed that these flights will enable the deployment of Sky and Space Global’s initial constellation. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Virgin Galactic also announced the capability to fly LauncherOne from low latitudes, allowing customers to maximize the amount of payload delivered to low inclination orbit, including equatorial orbits. Typically, ground-based launch vehicles must expend significant amounts of performance to deliver spacecraft to inclinations well away from the latitude of the launch site. By contrast, as an air-launched system, LauncherOne can optimize each mission to customer requirements by operating from a variety of launch locations—including launching the rocket from above or near the equator in order to most efficiently and cost-effectively insert satellites into low inclination orbits.

Sky and Space Global’s flights are the first announced LauncherOne missions planned to fly from low latitudes, allowing Sky and Space Global to maximize the amount of payload delivered to a low inclination orbit. Previously disclosed LauncherOne contracts, including flights for OneWeb and NASA, are designed to fly to higher inclination orbits.

Each of the four launches purchased by Sky and Space Global will be used to carry multiple satellites, which will rapidly establish the company’s innovative communication system infrastructure and service. The flights are expected to begin in 2018.

Speaking at the Paris event, Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides said: “Having a 747 as our flying launch site means that LauncherOne can tailor each mission to suit each customer. We’ve seen an enormous level of commercial and governmental interest in launches that can reach equatorial orbits without having to pay the large performance penalty associated with transfer orbits. We’re very excited to have this agreement in place now with a great company like Sky and Space Global to deliver their satellites to orbit reliably, affordably, and flexibly.”

Sky and Space Global CEO Meir Moalem added: “We are thrilled to partner with Virgin Galactic on our exciting missions and LauncherOne’s first low inclination launches. Just as we value purposeful innovation and customer service, Virgin Galactic shares our values and our vision for how communication can fundamentally improve lives. We have an ideal partner in Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne and its operational flexibility and are excited to work together to change the world for good.”

The fully-funded LauncherOne program is currently in advanced phase of hardware testing for every subsystem and major component of the vehicle. With hundreds of millions of dollars of launches already under contract, Virgin Galactic has established a state-of-the-art 150,000 square foot manufacturing shop in Long Beach, California, with a team of more than 200 experienced aerospace professionals currently preparing the system for its first test flights.

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Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline. Founded by Sir Richard Branson and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, Virgin Galactic aims to open access to space to change the world for good. Virgin Galactic is developing reliable, affordable, and frequent services both for human spaceflight and satellite launch. To launch the small satellite revolution, Virgin Galactic is developing LauncherOne, a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from a dedicated 747-400 carrier from various locations. To revolutionize human spaceflight, Virgin Galactic is testing the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, a reusable space launch system. The number of customers who paid to reserve places to fly on SpaceShipTwo is already greater than the total number of humans who have ever been to space throughout history. SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, are manufactured and tested in Mojave, California by Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing wing, The Spaceship Company. Commercial operations will be based in New Mexico at Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.


Sky and Space Global Ltd owns 100% of Sky and Space Global (UK) Limited, a UK incorporated company with European and Israeli centres of Aerospace, Satellite and Software Industry Experts, plans to deploy nano-satellites constellations in orbit to provide global communication infrastructure and services to the telecommunications and international transport industries. The Company is now funded beyond the Q2 2017 launch of its “3 diamonds” pilot network with the Indian Space Research Organization, following the completion of the Company’s recent oversubscribed $4.5 million fund raising. The core Sky and Space Global business is to construct a communications infrastructure based on nano-satellite technology and develop the highly complex and sophisticated software systems that will deploy, maintain orbit control and handle communication code between each of the nano-satellites to give a global coverage. Sky and Space Global aims to provide low cost, nano-satellite communication coverage on an anywhere to everywhere base with relatively low maintenance costs. Due to the experience and expertise of the founders in the aerospace industry, the business will be able to develop with inherent upgrading capabilities within short intervals, utilising their unique IP-nanosat software protocols.