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Virgin Orbit Prepares for Late June Mission for US Space Force 

By Rachel Jewett | May 9, 2022

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl plane ahead of the Jan. 13 launch “Above the Clouds.” Photo: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit is preparing for its next launch set for late June to support the U.S. Space Force’s STP-28A mission, the company announced Monday. 

The mission, set for no earlier than June 29, will carry seven satellites from multiple government agencies that are experiments intended to demonstrate novel modular satellite bus, space domain awareness, and adaptive radio frequency technologies. The Space Force procured this launch for the Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP), with payloads provided by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program (STP).

Virgin Orbit is targeting an orbit at approximately 500 km above the Earth’s surface at 45 degrees inclination – an orbit the company said no other system has reached from the West Coast.

The LauncherOne rocket that will be used in the mission recently arrived at Virgin Orbit’s Mojave Air and Space Port. The mission is called “Straight Up,” after the Paula Abdul song released by Virgin Records on  June 21,1988. Launch is set for no earlier than June 29. 

The smallsat launcher has conducted three successful missions so far — its first successful mission in January 2021, first commercial mission in June 2021, and “Above the Clouds”  mission in January 2022

Separately, Virgin Orbit recently signed the Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space, Inc., known as iQPS, as a customer for early 2023. iQPS is a Japanese Earth observation company and will manifest its fifth synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite on a Virgin Orbit mission.