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Oita Partners with Virgin Orbit to Establish First Horizontal Spaceport in Asia

Oita Prefecture to Foster Local NewSpace Industry Following Collaboration with Virgin Orbit

Oita, Japan/Long Beach, California — April 2, 2020 — Virgin Orbit, the California-based small satellite launch company, has announced a new partnership with Oita Prefecture to bring horizontal launch to Japan. With the support of regional partners ANA Holdings Inc. and the Space Port Japan Association, Virgin Orbit has identified Oita Airport as its preferred pilot launch site — yet another addition to the company’s growing global network of horizontal launch sites — in pursuit of a mission to space from Japan as early as 2022. 

Virgin Orbit and Oita Prefecture have agreed to commence a joint technical study to facilitate development of the future spaceport. 

Oita Prefecture is widely recognized in Japan as not only a top-ranked tourist destination, but also as a hub for numerous high-tech ecosystems, including the steel, petrochemical, semiconductor, and automobile industries. The Oita Prefectural Government now has ambitions to extend that leadership into the space domain.

“We are eager to host the first horizontal takeoff and landing spaceport in Japan. We are also honored to be able to collaborate with brave technology companies solving global-level problems through their small satellites,” said Katsusada Hirose, Governor for the Oita Prefectural Government. “We hope to foster a cluster of space industry in our prefecture, starting with our collaboration with Virgin Orbit.” 

“As the global use of smaller satellites and related launch activities are expected to ramp up rapidly in the coming years, a flexible domestic launch capability becomes a crucial factor. It’s a key element in ensuring the availability and responsiveness of launch — a core enabler for the growing space economy,” said Dan Hart, CEO for Virgin Orbit. “As Japan looks to establish a regional launch hub for Asia, we’re very excited to work alongside Oita to enable launch operations for space ventures, stimulate the local economy, and facilitate the growth of Japan’s broader space ecosystem.”

LauncherOne, Virgin Orbit’s uniquely mobile launch system, will leverage sites around the world like Oita to provide flexible and responsive flights to space for a broad variety of customers. Most recently, the UK Space Agency announced a multi-million dollar grant to facilitate horizontal launches from Spaceport Cornwall, and in April 2019, Virgin Orbit revealed that it would also conduct launches from Andersen Air Force Base on the Pacific island of Guam. Even now, Virgin Orbit is working closely with multiple governments and international organizations interested in establishing launch capabilities closer to home. 

After successfully demonstrating all major vehicle assemblies and completing an extensive flight test program, the Virgin Orbit team is in the midst of final preparations for an orbital launch demonstration expected soon.

MEDIA INQUIRIES:

Kendall Russell, Kendall.Russell@virginorbit.com

Will Pomerantz, Will.Pomerantz@virginorbit.com

Oita: Advanced Technology Application Office, a14270@pref.oita.lg.jp

ABOUT VIRGIN ORBIT

Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft – allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Virgin Orbit’s systems are currently in an advanced stage of testing, with initial orbital launches expected soon. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit virginorbit.com.

ABOUT ANA

Following the “Inspiration of Japan” high quality of service, ANA has been awarded the respected 5-Star rating every year since 2013 from SKYTRAX. ANA is the only Japanese airline to win this prestigious designation seven years in a row. Additionally, ANA has been recognized by Air Transport World as “Airline of the Year” three times in the past 10 years — 2007, 2013 and 2018, becoming one of the few airlines to win this prestigious award multiple times.

ANA was founded in 1952 with two helicopters and has become the largest airline in Japan, as well as one of the most significant airlines in Asia, operating 77 international routes and 118 domestic routes. ANA offers a unique dual hub model which enables passengers to travel to Tokyo and connect through the two airports in the metropolitan Tokyo, Narita and Haneda, to various destinations throughout Japan, and also offers same day connections between various North American, Asian and Chinese cities.

ANA has been a member of Star Alliance since 1999 and has joint venture partnerships with United Airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines, Swiss International Airlines and Austrian Airlines.

In addition to the full service and award-winning record of ANA, the ANA Group’s subsidiary Peach Aviation Limited is the leading LCC in Japan, and has expanded following the integration of Vanilla Air Inc. in late 2019. The ANA Group carried 54.4 million passengers in FY2018, has approximately 43,000 employees and a fleet of 260 aircraft. ANA is a proud launch customer and the biggest operator of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. For more information, please refer to the following link: https://www.ana.co.jp/group/en/