Virgin Orbit Announces Partnership with ANA Holdings to Launch Small Satellites from Japan

Japan’s Largest Airline Group Working with Sir Richard Branson’s Company to Host LauncherOne in Asia for the First Time

Tokyo, California 6 June 2019 Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, announced today that it has signed an agreement with ANA Holdings (hereinafter “ANA HD”), parent company of All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, to bring the company’s LauncherOne service to Japan. Subject to U.S. Government regulatory approvals, Virgin Orbit’s unique and responsive system — which uses a 747 widebody jet as a “flying launch pad” for its rocket — will complement existing Japanese ground launch vehicles, enabling near-term access to space by the private sector, helping to grow the country’s burgeoning small satellite ecosystem, and helping to elevate Japan as the premier space transport hub in Asia.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) charts out a long-term partnership between ANA HD and Virgin Orbit, further strengthening ties between the U.S. and Japan for cooperative, peaceful space activities. Under the terms of the agreement, ANA, which maintains the largest airline fleet in Japan, will evaluate the capabilities to provide aircraft and ground support equipment maintenance and potentially additional aircraft to support Virgin Orbit’s local launch operations, as well as logistics and transport services for Virgin Orbit’s broader launch operations across Asia. ANA HD and Virgin Orbit will also partner with Space Port Japan to select and stand-up an ideal launch site to host LauncherOne operations in Japan. 

“Japan has long been a global source of innovation and a leader in space, and with the small satellite market growing so impressively, we are seeing countless new satellite applications and businesses emerge in the region. With this new partnership, we’re excited to bring LauncherOne’s unique responsiveness and flexibility to Asia for the first time,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart, “ANA has the respect and trust of customers around the world—and we look forward to working closely with them to stimulate the small satellite market in Japan.”

“We are proud to partner with fellow companies like Virgin Orbit that are also on the cutting edge of innovation,” said Toyoyuki Nagamine, Senior Executive Vice President of ANA HD. “Space is open for everyone going forward, and Virgin Orbit represents a new era of space capabilities. This collaboration plays to the strengths of each of our companies and will allow both ANA HD and Virgin Orbit to strengthen international ties for space activities while working towards important goals that will have a real impact on the world we share.”

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system is now in the final phases of testing, after successfully demonstrating all major assemblies with multiple flight vehicles in production. Having just entered its final series of captive carry flights with a test rocket mated to the wing, Virgin Orbit is on track to conduct its first orbital test flight later this year.

By using a modified 747-400 aircraft as its “flying launch pad,” Virgin Orbit gains the ability to quickly transport the entire launch site to new locations around the world, launching each satellite from the optimal location. This mobile approach to launch substantially reduces the expense required for infrastructure at each launch site. The Mojave Air and Space Port is the California launch site that will be home to the company’s first orbital launch later this year, as well as subsequent launches to high inclination orbits. Other spaceports — both new and established — have announced that they are working to prepare themselves for future missions of LauncherOne, including the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom and the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport in Italy.



Kendall Russell,


ANA Corporate Communications, TEL +81-3-6735-1111,


Virgin Orbit provides dedicated, responsive, and affordable launch services for small satellites. Virgin Orbit is developing LauncherOne, a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from a modified 747-400 carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations 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


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 sevenyears 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 winning this prestigious award for 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 80international routes and 118domestic 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.

Besides the full service and award winner carrier ANA, the ANA Group has two LCCs as consolidated subsidiaries, Vanilla Air Inc. and Peach Aviation Limited. The ANA Group carried 53.8 million passengers in FY2017, has approximately 39,000 employees and a fleet of 260 aircraft. ANA is a proud launch customer and the biggest operator of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

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