Spaceflight Boosts Smallsat Launch Range with LauncherOne
Spaceflight and Virgin Orbit have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a mission to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2019. Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl, a dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft, will carry LauncherOne (which will house Spaceflight’s customer smallsats) to an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet before releasing its rocket-powered flight to orbit.
The two-stage expendable rocket, which is currently in the final stages of qualification, can place about 300-500 kilograms into orbit. Virgin Orbit aims to conduct multiple missions to LEO in 2018.
Spaceflight has launched more than 140 satellites to date from a variety of launch vehicles including SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), Orbital ATK’s Antares, and the Russian Soyuz and Dnepr. Spaceflight recently announced agreements for launches on Rocket Lab’s Electron, Arianespace’s Vega, and now Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne.
“LauncherOne offers timely and targeted access to the equator and mid-latitudes, and we’re excited to provide this innovative service to our customers via this partnership with Virgin Orbit,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight.
“This agreement further propels the smallsat revolution and gets us closer to realizing our vision of launching anyone, anywhere, any time,” commented Virgin Orbit Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dan Hart.