HAGÅTÑA, Guam—Guam has been selected as a launch site for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Service. A first launch from the island could occur in as little as a year’s time.
“This is a rare opportunity for our island to be front and center of a groundbreaking space industry,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. “Guam has always been a rare gem known for great weather, a beautiful landscape and warm people, and now we can add space transportation to that list.”
Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, along with Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, made the announcement yesterday.
Tenorio met with Richard DalBello, vice president of Business Development and Government Affairs of Virgin Galactic; and Mandy Vaughn, president of VOX Space LLC, sister company of Virgin Orbit, last month to discuss the possibilities of using Guam as a hub for launching small satellites.
“We are keen to partner with Virgin Orbit to generate a new space industry in Guam and advance our local economy, as well as spur new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education opportunities for our youth to take us into the future,” said Tenorio.
Guam will become the second site to host a flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne service. The fits one is at the Long Beach Airport.
According to a statement the Guam Office of the Governor issued yesterday, Guam, with its remote location and close proximity to the equator, is an excellent base of operations to operate Virgin Orbit’s 747-launched rocket-seen to boost the rapidly expanding small satellite market.
The new location enables LauncherOne to deliver 450 kg to a 500 km equatorial orbit.
The addition of Guam to that list enhances the flexibility of Virgin Orbit’s launch operations, adding a low-latitude site with clear launch trajectories in almost all directions, giving Virgin Orbit’s customers unparalleled control over where and when their small spacecraft are deployed.
Officials at U.S. Pacific Air Forces have issued a letter of support for Andersen Air Force Base to host launches and other exercises with LauncherOne and its dedicated carrier aircraft—a critical step en route to a first launch from the island.
The A.B. Won Pat International Airport has begun the process of seeking its launch site operator’s license from the Federal Aviation Authority’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, in order to serve as a future launch site for Virgin Orbit.
“Launching from Guam gives us easy access to every orbital inclination our customers need. With our air-launched system, we will fly out as any other airplane, move out to sea and release our rocket. Our minimal footprint coupled with Guam’s natural launch location results in a great match. With the continued support from Gov. Leon Guerrero and our partners in the DOD, we are well on our way toward providing new launch opportunities for small satellites that have waited too long for their ride to space, and we’re thankful to the local government in Guam for their enthusiasm and support,” said Virgin Orbit chief executive officer Dan Hart.
In addition to the launch site’s primary appeal to commercial missions, VOX Space also anticipates using Guam and other launch sites to provide responsive launch 2 capability to the national security space community.
As part of a series of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Superiority Directorate located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, CA, among others, VOX Space is developing concepts for how commercially developed space capabilities can partner with and complement the U.S. Department of Defense’s existing mobility, transportation, and space launch systems.
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 completed its fourth captive carry flight 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 customized 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.
In addition to the Mojave Air and Space Port—the California launch site that will be home to the company’s first orbital launch in the middle of 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 Launch and Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom, the Taranto Grottaglie Airport in Italy, and others.
About Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit designs, manufactures, tests, and operates a system called LauncherOne, a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites.
LauncherOne rockets are made in the United States in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from a dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations.
Virgin Orbit has now tested every component and system of the LauncherOne platform in the run up to the company’s first orbital launch, expected soon.
To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit virginorbit.com/careers.
About VOX Space
VOX Space, LLC is a U.S.-incorporated, wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, LLC. VOX Space provides the national security community of the USA and allied nations with responsive, dedicated, and affordable launch services for small satellites bound for Low Earth Orbit.
Headquartered in El Segundo, California, VOX Space can provide study, analysis, integration, and launch services using Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne. (PR)