Virgin Orbit expects to conduct the first launch from the UK in August

Virgin Orbit expects to conduct the first orbital launch of the LauncherOne rocket from the UK at the end of August. This was announced by the company’s chief strategist Jim Simpson.

Cosmic Girl plane with a suspended LauncherOne rocket. Source: Virgin Orbit

According to Simpson, the launch from the UK will be carried out after the Straight Up mission. Within its framework, the LauncherOne rocket will have to put seven government cargo into orbit. At the moment, this mission is scheduled for the end of June – July.

The LauncherOne rocket is launched according to the air launch scheme from a carrier aircraft (modified Boeing 747-400). This allows to organize a launch from almost anywhere on Earth, where there is a runway and the necessary infrastructure. In the case of the UK, this is the Cornwall spaceport in the southwest of England. It is worth noting that so far Virgin Orbit has not received a license from the local regulator to launch. But the company expects to settle all the formalities before August.

Payloads for the first British Virgin Orbit mission have already been selected. In total, LauncherOne will launch six spacecraft into orbit. Among them are a pair of cubesats developed by the UK Ministry of Defense, marine tracking and environmental monitoring satellites, as well as the first Omani satellite.

Virgin Orbit’s Future Plans

Virgin Orbit also touched upon its plans to modernize LauncherOne. The company plans to increase its payload capacity from 300 to 350 kg per sun-synchronous orbit. Virgin Orbit engineers are also developing the third stage of the rocket. As one of the options, the use of an electric tow is considered, which will be able to take up to 180 kg of cargo into geostationary orbits and up to 150 kg of cargo on a flight path to the Moon.

Launching LauncherOne. Source: Virgin Orbit

In addition, Virgin Orbit specialists are exploring the possibility of reusing the first stages of LauncherOne. In particular, the idea of using parachutes for their landing is being considered. And finally, the company also announced its intention to create a more powerful LauncherTwo rocket, which will be able to carry three times more cargo compared to LauncherOne.

You can also read about Astra Space’s plans to build a more powerful rocket.

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