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Virgin Orbit Selects AVS to Build Ground Operating System at Spaceport Cornwall

By Jeffrey Hill | May 4, 2021

Virgin Orbit Spaceport Cornwall concept (image by Cornwall Council)

Virgin Orbit took another step toward bringing space launch capabilities to the United Kingdom by contracting AVS Added Value Solutions UK (AVS) to build a ground operating system at the U.K. spaceport in Cornwall.

AVS was one of a handful of tier-1 U.K. suppliers who bid for the contract. Virgin Orbit said in its announcement that it selected AVS because of its “proven expertise in complex and critical space and scientific equipment (including large space GSE and propulsion), product and quality assurance proposal, and the experience of their EN9100 and ISO9001 list of UK proposed suppliers.”

With support from the UK Space Agency and Cornwall Council, Virgin Orbit is hoping to complete the world’s first satellite launch from the islands of the North Atlantic on its LauncherOne vehicle. In November 2019, Virgin Orbit secured a $9.5 million grant from the UK Space Agency to establish a spaceport at Cornwall’s Airport Newquay.

AVS said it would complete and test the set of ground support equipment that Virgin Orbit needs prior to its first scheduled launch from Cornwall in 2022.

UK Space Agency Deputy Chief Executive Ian Annett said the manufacturing agreement between Virgin Orbit and AVS would, “act as a catalyst for growth in the wider space industry, helping to create highly skilled jobs and bringing economic benefits across the U.K.”

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall added that the agreement would specifically create 150 new jobs in Cornwall. “The first launch from Spaceport Cornwall will be an incredible example of companies working together to launch the U.K. into space,” Thorpe said in a statement.

Virgin Orbit could soon be joined by U.S. launch companies looking for U.K.-based facilities, thanks to a June 2020 cooperative launch agreement between both U.S. and U.K. governments. According to the U.S. Department of State, the agreement established technical safeguards for U.S. launches from the U.K., and also sets standards for how sensitive U.S. technology should be used for satellite and rocket launches from foreign locations.

Just last week, Virgin Orbit brought Brazil one step closer to finally achieving its own domestic launch capabilities when it reached an agreement with the  Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) and Brazilian Air Force to services at the 39-year-old Alcântara Spaceport on Brazil’s northern coast.