Potential small satellite launcher service provider Virgin Orbit intends to repeat its launch of the main orbital demonstration in December this year. That would be a remarkable turnaround after its attempt in March failed in the orbit the company had hoped for. The company is committed to providing low-cost launch services for small satellites by deploying its mid-air launcher, which is carried to high altitudes by a modified version of a traditional airliner.
This launch will hopefully be a first for Virgin Orbit – the first time it has reached orbit. It has to be there to provide the services it wants to offer. CNBC spoke to Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, who said the December target depends on where they are right now with the construction of a new LauncherOne missile for the test mission.
LauncherOne is docked on Virgin Orbits carrier boat for its launch model, a modified d747. The jet takes it to an altitude of about 45,000 feet. At that point he drops the rocket, which after disconnection ignites its own engines and then flies the rest of the way into space on its own. A rocket has a much easier time exiting Earth̵
In March, Virgin’s launch went smoothly until the LauncherOne vehicle used for this mission ignited its engines. There was a bug that caused the engines to shut down due to a safety shutdown and the missile then safely fell back to earth but was obviously lost.
Such a mishap on a first attempt at launch in orbit is far from unusual – in fact, it is almost the norm. Virgin Orbit said they gained a lot of great data from their trial regardless of the outcome, and hopefully that means this next trial goes according to plan. If so, the company should be on track to offer commercial services for the next year.
Meanwhile, CNBC reports that the company is currently in the process of tracing up to $ 150 million in new funding, in line with an earlier Wall Street Journal report this week.