Virgin Orbit to expand fleet as demand grows for satellite launches
Posted on 13 May 2022 and read 384 times
has signed an agreement with L3Harris Technologies
to acquire two Boeing 747-400 airframes as it looks to increase its aiborne fleet to support the growing demand for satellite launches.
L3Harris will modify one of the newly acquired aeroplanes to serve as an additional airborne launch pad for Virgin Orbit’s small satellite launch service, with delivery expected in 2023. L3Harris will also overhaul the platform with a new cargo configuration, which is expected to allow Virgin Orbit to deliver its rockets and ground-support equipment in the same aircraft that will launch from spaceports around the world.
The companies previously collaborated to produce Virgin Orbit’s flagship aircraft ‘Cosmic Girl’, the first customised 747-400 aircraft to carry and deploy payloads to Low Earth Orbit under Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne programme.
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said: “Virgin Orbit is at an exciting juncture in our growth as a company. As we expand our fleet to serve customers worldwide, we are enthusiastic to once again partner with L3Harris.”
Luke Savoie, L3Harris president (ISR Systems), said: “It is inspiring for our team to see L3Harris’ aircraft engineering and modification experience in action on a mission-enabling platform that has performed brilliantly in its space launch role.
“W are excited to help double Virgin Orbit’s innovative fleet so they can serve their customers with greater capacity and mission flexibility.”
Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl has completed three commercial launches, successfully deploying 26 customer satellites into orbit for multiple commercial, government and military customers. The aircraft, which was previously acquired from Virgin Orbit’s sister company Virgin Atlantic, will continue to fly missions, including the first UK launch from Spaceport Cornwall later this year.