Virgin Orbit to Expand Fleet with Modification of Second Airborne Satellite Launchpad

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– Virgin Orbit signs agreement to secure two new airframes to meet U.S. national security and its allies’ launch demands –

– L3Harris will modify one aircraft, aims to deliver Virgin Orbit’s second airborne launcher by 2023 –

– New cargo configuration expected to enable foreign spaceport launch and transport of rockets, support equipment –

LauncherOne arrives on the runway at Long Beach Airport for a fit check with Cosmic Girl in October 2018. Credit: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit has signed an agreement with L3Harris Technologies to acquire two Boeing 747-400 airframes to support the growing need for U.S. national security and allies’ satellite launch demands.

L3Harris will modify one of the newly acquired aircraft 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 foreign spaceports.

The companies previously collaborated to produce Virgin Orbit’s flagship aircraft “Cosmic Girl,” the first customized 747-400 aircraft to carry and deploy payloads to Low Earth Orbit under Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne program.

Virgin Orbit is at an exciting juncture in our growth as a company,” said CEO Dan Hart. “As we expand our fleet to serve customers worldwide, we’re enthusiastic to once again partner with L3Harris.

It’s 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,” said Luke Savoie, President, ISR Systems, L3Harris. “We’re 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 launch from the United Kingdom expected later this year out of Spaceport Cornwall.

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