Coming off flawless back-to-back launches, the Virgin Orbit team has settled into a steady flight preparation rhythm with LauncherOne. The fully assembled rocket that will carry our next customers’ satellites to space left our rocket factory in Long Beach and headed up to the bare concrete pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port that serves as all the spaceport we need. Already, the rocket has been mated to the customized 747 that serves as our flying launch pad, mobile mission control, and fully re-usable first stage all at once.
With our pre-launch preparation now officially underway, we’re delighted to tell you more about our next mission, which is on track to launch later this year. On the heels of our flawless Tubular Bells, Part One mission in June, which sounded our new era of routine commercial flights to orbit, we’re happy some of our Tubular Bells customers have now become our first repeat clients. We’re working with some old friends, but headed to some new places.
We invite you to turn your attention skyward, to a mission we have dubbed Above the Clouds.
The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching several Research and Development (R&D) satellites from multiple government agencies that are experiments in space-based communications and in-space navigation, as well as a university payload sponsored by NASA. This launch, also known as STP-27VPB, was awarded to Virgin Orbit’s subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative. DIU is an organization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology into the U.S. military to strengthen national security.
Polish company SatRevolution, which is launching two nanosatellites: STORK-3 and SteamSat-2. STORK-3 join the STORK-4 and STORK-5 Marta satellites placed in orbit on our June 2021 mission as part of the SatRevolution’s Earth-observation capabilities, with a focus on serving customers in the agricultural sector to take medium-resolution photos. SteamSat-2 is a technology demonstrated for SteamJet Space System (UK)’s innovative water-fueled thrusters for in-space propulsion.
Spire Global, a satellite imaging provider and a late-load addition to our manifest, will launch Adler-1, which was developed in partnership with the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) and Findus Venture GmbH. Adler-1 is part of a growing movement to address the issue of dangerous space debris and improve sustainability in Low Earth Orbit. The 30x10x10 cm satellite will study the space debris environment in Low Earth Orbit to complement the space debris models by obtaining in-situ data. Spire Global was a late addition to the Above the Clouds manifest, taking advantage of Virgin Orbit’s industry-leading responsive capabilities.
Launch Site: Our fully mobile LauncherOne system will conduct the flight from what is currently a bare concrete pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California
Target Orbit: Low Earth Orbit
Launch Timing: January 2022
Launch Coverage: Real time updates to be provided via social media and a public livestream
Mission Name: Above the Clouds
The mission name Above the Clouds pays homage to hip hop sensation Gang Starr’s album, Moment of Truth. Released on March 31, 1998, by Virgin Records in collaboration with Noo Trybe Records, Moment of Truth is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. The song titled Above the Clouds, featuring Inspectah Deck of Wu-Tang Clan, appears as the fifth track – and Virgin Orbit’s favorite. We are especially inspired by the chorus:
Above the crowds, above the clouds
Where the sounds are original
Infinite skills create miracles
We’re certainly a little biased. Starting our launches from above the clouds lets us avoid the crowds at traditional spaceports, while also giving us a significant performance advantage over ground-launched systems. That means we can do more to help our customers and partners use their infinite skills to create miracles, using space technology to make life better right here on planet Earth. We are emboldened by the original, creative work and innovative tenacity our collaborators, customers, and colleagues demonstrate every day to advance the industry.
We’ll have more info and technical updates to share as the launch gets closer. In the meantime, stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter, and following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.
About Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit operates one of the most flexible and responsive space launch systems ever built. Founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017, the company began commercial service in 2021, and has already delivered commercial, civil, national security, and international satellites into orbit. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are air-launched from a modified 747- 400 carrier aircraft that allows Virgin Orbit to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. On August 22, 2021, Virgin Orbit entered into a definitive agreement to combine with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II (“NextGen”, NASDAQ: NGCA), a special purpose acquisition company, which would result in Virgin Orbit becoming a publicly listed company on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol VORB. To learn more, visit virginorbit.com