Virgin Orbit says on May 6 that it will release six CubeSats on the following flight of its LauncherOne vehicle in June, winging out of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The air-initiated rocket will install the payloads into orbits at an elevation of 500 kilometers and a proclivity of 60 degrees.
The release will be the first-ever since its lucrative Launch Demo 2 operation in January, which brought 10 CubeSats for NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services program. That release was the first effective operation for LauncherOne, after an unsuccessful release of the vehicle in May 2020.
Three of the CubeSats will be from the Defense Department all through the Space Test Program’s Rapid Agile Launch Program. This is under a deal granted to Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space. The firm did not reveal which satellites will sail on LauncherOne under that agreement.
A fourth CubeSat will be BRIK 2, a six-unit CubeSat for the Royal Netherlands Air Force built by Dutch firm Innovative Solutions in Space. The satellite will assess telecommunications technologies and determine how CubeSats can sustain Dutch military assignments. BRIK 2 will also be proof of “late-load” assimilation of CubeSats onto the LauncherOne vehicle soon before release.
The final two CubeSats will be STORK-4 and STORK-5 from SatRevolution, a Polish firm. Those three-unit CubeSats will be the earliest in a 14-satellite constellation intended by SatRevolution to deliver medium-resolution multispectral pictures.
The statement of the next release was the newest in a sequence of developments for Virgin Orbit as it pursues to step into normal processes of the LauncherOne system. Which utilizes a revised Boeing 747 as its release platform. The firm has hyped the tractability of an air-launch system, which can commence to any tendency from a wide variety of airports, as a key offering point.
Virgin Orbit reveals April 28 that the Brazilian administration chooses the firm as one of four industrial launch operators to use the following:
- Alcântara Launch Center in Brazil
- C6 Launch
- Orion AST
Virgin Orbit is the only air-launch scheme of the four and the single firm with an operating orbital release vehicle.
Alcântara would join Mojave and airports in Guam, England, and Japan as possible release sites for LauncherOne. The firm, however, did not extend a plan for the first flight from Alcântara.
The firm is making development in the direction of the first release from Spaceport Cornwall, also known as Cornwall Airport Newquay, in southwestern England. Virgin states on May 3 that it selected a British company, AVS Added Value Solutions, to construct the ground assistance equipment. This is essential to support LauncherOne operations from Cornwall. The first LauncherOne launch from Cornwall is cautiously planned for 2022.
Virgin Orbit also secures a new customer on April 21, signing up QinetiQ and HyperSat to initiate a constellation of six hyperspectral satellites. The first satellite will release on a LauncherOne missile in 2023. Firm representative Kendall Russell says there’s no plan yet for the launch of the remainder of the constellation.
Virgin Orbit is holding a page from one of its rivals in the small release market, Rocket Lab, by specifying its operations. The firm says the June launch is called “Tubular Bells, Part One,” following the first track on the first album released by Virgin Records. The record firm establishes near a half-century ago by Richard Branson. The non-traditional album turns into one of the most prevalent albums of the 1970s.
“For the first flight after the decision of our test plan, what could be more suitable than to tip our hat to that imaginative work and those bold choices?” the firm mentions in a report about the forthcoming launch.