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Virgin Orbit Brings LauncherOne Service to Japan

By | June 6, 2019
Virgin Orbit's dedicated smallsat launcher, Launcher One. Photo: Virgin Orbit.

Virgin Orbit’s dedicated smallsat launcher, Launcher One. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit signed an agreement with ANA Holdings (ANA HD), parent company of All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, to bring the company’s LauncherOne service to Japan. Subject to U.S. government regulatory approvals, Virgin Orbit’s system — which uses a 747 widebody jet as a “flying launch pad” for its rocket — will complement existing Japanese ground launch vehicles.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) charts out a long-term partnership between ANA HD and Virgin Orbit, aiming to further strengthen ties between the U.S. and Japan for cooperative, peaceful space activities. Under the terms of the agreement, ANA, which maintains the largest airline fleet in Japan, will evaluate the capabilities to provide aircraft and ground support equipment maintenance and potentially additional aircraft to support Virgin Orbit’s local launch operations, as well as logistics and transport services for Virgin Orbit’s broader launch operations across Asia. ANA HD and Virgin Orbit will also partner with Space Port Japan to select and stand-up an ideal launch site to host LauncherOne operations in Japan.

“Japan has long been a global source of innovation and a leader in space, and with the small satellite market growing so impressively, we are seeing countless new satellite applications and businesses emerge in the region. With this new partnership, we’re excited to bring LauncherOne’s unique responsiveness and flexibility to Asia for the first time,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart, “ANA has the respect and trust of customers around the world — and we look forward to working closely with them to stimulate the small satellite market in Japan.”