Virgin Orbit (and not Virgin Galactic, which has problems with the US FAA over flight safety) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding and collaboration with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).
The agreement sees Virgin Orbit and SwRI exploring multiple specialized mission opportunities using the company’s LauncherOne rocket system and “coupled with SwRI’s deep expertise in space mission development. Additionally, the two organizations will explore potential opportunities for joint manufacturing of SwRI’s space platforms and delivery of space services to Virgin Orbit’s customers.
Virgin Orbit says it is developing partnerships to offer customers turnkey bundled services, stating: “Virgin Orbit and SwRI are particularly interested in collaborating on stewardship programs that would leverage space data to inform critical decisions around weather and for environmental monitoring purposes.”
As part of the agreement, Virgin Orbit will assess the possibility of manufacturing SwRI Space Vehicle platforms at the company’s manufacturing hub in Long Beach, California. Virgin Orbit and SwRI will also evaluate opportunities to jointly develop and launch missions to space, including the deployment of satellite constellations, to provide comprehensive space service offerings to customers.
This past June, Virgin Orbit completed its second successful flight to space, Tubular Bells: Part One, which delivered several payloads for the US Department of Defense Space Test Programme to a precise target orbit.
“As the Virgin Orbit team works to build on our recent successes, we’re excited to join forces with organizations like SwRI to propel forward our mission of opening space for good. We’re especially looking forward to combining our uniquely responsive air launch capabilities with SwRI’s broad spacecraft expertise to provide turnkey solutions for our most pressing environmental challenges,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.