Introducing Our Next Mission: Tubular Bells, Part One

Since our flawless Launch Demo 2 mission in January, the Virgin Orbit team hasn’t wasted any time in working towards yet another flight with LauncherOne. At this very moment, the rocket that will carry our next customers to space is fully assembled, and in the coming days we’ll ship it out to our Mojave test site for prelaunch operations. As all this is now familiar work, our team has been able to operate at a whole new level of efficiency and precision.

Historically, the space industry has been slow to ramp up from early tests to the start of commercial service. Thanks to a world-class team and our fully operational, cutting-edge factory, Virgin Orbit is breaking that tradition. Currently, our efforts are on track for our next orbital launch in June.

We’re proud to have retired our “Launch Demo” program and the corresponding mission names, and are delighted to share with you some details about our upcoming mission, which we have named “Tubular Bells, Part One.”

Mission Manifest

» The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching three CubeSat sets as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative. This launch, also known as STP-27VPA, was awarded to Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology into the U.S. military to strengthen national security.  

» The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which is launching the Netherlands’ first military satellite, a CubeSat called BRIK II, built and integrated by Innovative Solutions in Space, with contributions from the University of Oslo, the Delft University of Technology, and Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre.

» SatRevolution, which is launching the first two optical satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (A.K.A. MARTA), of the company’s 14-satellite STORK constellation.

Launch Site

As with our previous mission, we will conduct the mission from what is currently a bare concrete pad at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Target Orbit

500 km, circular orbit at 60 degrees inclination

Launch Timing

June 2021

Launch Coverage

 A public livestream of the mission will be available on our website. You can also get real-time updates via social media: just follow us on Twitter @VirginOrbit.

Mission Name: “Tubular Bells, Part One”

Mike Oldfield (L) and Richard Branson (R) in the recording studio The Manor in the 1970s. Photo: Virgin Group. 

In 1973, Richard Branson, then a young entrepreneur and record shop owner, met a new musician who had made a demo tape unlike anything else on the airwaves. Moved by the music, Richard decided to help that musician, Mike Oldfield, get the record made. The pair played the demo for every record label they could, but no one was willing to take a chance on a record that sounded so different from the big, overproduced rock-and-roll that dominated the charts. With no one else willing to do the job, Richard decided he would simply create his own record label to help Oldfield make and release the album. And thus, Virgin Records was born. The album, Tubular Bells, went on to become a smash international hit, topping the charts for months, winning major awards, and going into the record books one of the top sellers of the decade.

For this first step in the next chapter of our commercial service, what could be more appropriate than to tip our hat to that creative work and those bold decisions? Like Tubular Bells, our customers are doing something a little out of the ordinary for our space industry — and we so love their work that we’ve created a whole new way to launch that is tailored just for them.

The first track on the first side of the first album from the first band ever signed to Virgin Records. What a way to kick off our commercial service!

We’ll have more info and technical updates to share as the launch gets closer. In the meantime, stay in the loop by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

The original Virgin Records store on Oxford Street in London. Photo: Virgin Group.