Following on from the success of launching himself and three passengers into space last week, Sir Richard Branson’s sister business Virgin Orbit will start launching and deploying a greater number of satellites in 2022.
Virgin Orbit’s VP/Flight & Launch Activities, Tyler Grinnell, newly appointed to the position after a dozen years at SpaceX, told Fox News that the market for satellite launches is growing at the highest rate it has ever been.
Virgin Orbit’s target market is small-to-medium sized satellites (300-500 kgs) and the company sent 7 satellites into orbit for the US Dept. Of Defense’s Space Test Program, another for Poland’s SatRevolution and another for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
One of the strong attractions for Virgin Orbit is that the main aircraft (the company uses a modified Boeing 747) can fly more-or-less anywhere on the planet with a suitable Spaceport-type runway and fly to 35,000 ft and then launch its Launcher One rocket which carries its cargo satellite/s into orbit at an initial 8000mph (and then 17500mph) for deployment.
Currently Virgin Orbit is based at the Mojave Air & Spaceport in California, but future launch sites in the UK, Japan, Brazil and the island of Guam and in the potential manifest for the aircraft and its rocket combination.
Grinnell says there’ll be another launch later is year, with “just under double digits” in 2022 and double that again in 2023.