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Virgin Orbit Will Launch Smallsats for UK Royal Air Force

By | July 19, 2019
Drop shot from the Virgin Orbit test. Photo: Tech Crunch

Drop shot from the Virgin Orbit test. Photo: Tech Crunch

Virgin Orbit, the small satellite launch company backed by billionaire Richard Branson, has signed an initial agreement to develop small satellite launch capabilities for the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF). The deal, which is part of the RAF’s Artemis project, will see Virgin Orbit aim to launch hardware provided by Guildford, UK-based Surrey Satellites in a demo mission.

This is in keeping with Virgin Orbit’s stated hope to bring spacecraft launch capabilities to the UK. The closest the UK has come is when it launched a British satellite aboard a British rocket in 1971 – but that took off from a launchpad in Australia. Virgin Orbit announced a deal to build a new Spaceport from which its modified 747 launch aircraft will take-off in Cornwall, with a target open date of early next decade.

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