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Virgin Orbit readies for Cornwall launch

October 10, 2022

On October 2nd, Virgin Orbit carried out a full ‘wet’ dress rehearsal at its HQ for its upcoming launch of satellites from Spaceport Cornwall. Virgin Orbit says it is ready and standing by for a launch but first needs a formal licence from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The ‘Straight Up’ test involved Virgin’s ‘Cosmic Girl converted Boeing 747 aircraft. This week the aircraft’s rocket will be mated to its satellite cargo at the newly inaugurated Space Systems Integration Facility at Spaceport Cornwall. The rocket was fuelled at Virgin’s Mojave Desert HQ last week.

Virgin says its aircraft is now ready for launch and it had an internal date, but the actual launch depended on the CAA approval to launch. One report talks of an October 29th date while another source says “early November”.

Virgin Orbit says it is also ready to extend its current workload which includes delivering 33 satellites to their target orbits.

“In doing so, Virgin Orbit’s air-launched system has proven its ability to fly through, and above, inclement weather, integrate rapid-call up payloads as well as reach a broader range of orbits than would be possible from a traditional, ground-launched system,” says Virgin Orbit.

The upcoming mission will see Virgin launch two cubesats which are joint missions between the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), in addition to seven other satellite tasks including satellites for Oman and Welsh start-up Space Forge.

Moreover, Virgin says it has trimmed significantly “by half” the time delay between launches.

“The launch from the Cornwall spaceport will demonstrate Virgin Orbit’s ability to enable virtually any country to become a spacefaring nation. Once manufactured, integrated and tested, a LauncherOne rocket can be sent to any of a variety of locations for final preparation and launch, responding to the needs of the commercial, civil and national security space communities,” adds Virgin Orbit.

Virgin Orbit has announced collaborative efforts to bring their air launch system to the nations of Australia, Brazil, Japan, Poland and the Republic of Korea.

Spaceport Cornwall is still talking of its debut flight taking place “this summer” but has yet to give a specific launch date.

Virgin Orbit has also admitted it needs more cash from investors. CEO Dan Hart says that fresh fund-raising would commence after the Cornwall launch.

Virgin Orbit listed on the NASDAQ exchange last December having raised $228 million of a targeted $483 million. Its shares were originally listed at $10 but are now less than $3 per share.

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