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Virgin Orbit takes flight

Source: AXIOS SPACE
By Miriam Kramer ·Jul 06, 2021

A Virgin Orbit plane takes flight from California.

Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl takes flight on June 30. Photo: Virgin Orbit

 

Virgin Orbit's satellite launch last week has already brought the company an influx of business interest, CEO Dan Hart told me.

Why it matters: Success for small rocket launchers like Virgin Orbit is built on customers trusting them with their wares, so having a successful mission for commercial customers can go a long way toward building confidence.

Catch up quick: On Wednesday, Virgin Orbit launched seven satellites for three different customers to orbit from off the California coast.

  • Its launch system makes use of a modified 747 plane named Cosmic Girl that flies the company's small LauncherOne rocket thousands of feet up in the air.
  • Once the rocket is dropped, its engine kicks on, boosting the satellites to orbit.

What's happening: Since the June 30 flight, the company has seen an influx of queries from across the space industry including civil, national security, U.S. and international customers, according to Hart.

The intrigue: Another attractive element of Virgin Orbit's system for customers, Hart said, is its ability to effectively launch from anywhere.

  • Instead of being tied to one or two launch sites like many other rocket launchers, Virgin Orbit "can make any airport into a spaceport," Hart said.
  • That capability opens the door for nations that don't otherwise have their own launch systems to use Virgin Orbit's on their own soil.
  • "There are almost 80 space agencies across the world, and maybe 10 countries that can launch," Hart said. "To fill out their space economy ... there are a lot of countries that would like to have this piece so they can really have the full economic benefit of space access."

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