Virgin Orbit to Launch GomSpace Nanosatellites
GomSpace has purchased a launch for several nanosatellites onboard a LauncherOne rocket from the California-based company Virgin Orbit. The flight, which is bound for a low-inclination orbit, is scheduled to occur in early 2019.
GomSpace will use the launch to further build out a constellation of small satellites that will use Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal monitoring to track civilian aircraft and ocean-going vessels. This satellite constellation will provide continuous monitoring between 37 degrees north and 37 degrees south, helping provide global situational awareness for air-traffic controllers and shipping companies, and aiding in the identification and location of wayward or missing planes and ships.
The satellites slated for flight on LauncherOne are based closely on the flight-proven hardware used in the successful GOMX 1 and GOMX 3 missions, and will be designed, manufactured, and commissioned by GomSpace. GomSpace’s Mauritius-based customer Aerial & Maritime will operate the constellation once in orbit.
Virgin Orbit is currently in the qualification and test flight stage for the LauncherOne service, which includes both a two-stage expendable rocket and a fully-reusable air-launch platform. The company has a fully assembled pathfinder rocket on the test stand in Mojave, California, and several more in manufacturing and assembly in Long Beach, California. The system’s Boeing 747-400 flying launch pad has begun its flight test campaign. The initial flight of the LauncherOne system is targeted for the first half of 2018.