The recently launched Virgin Orbit commercial space company already employs more than 200 aerospace professionals out of its Long Beach-based manufacturing facility. Photos courtesy of Virgin Orbit.
Virgin Galactic, and its billionaire founder Sir Richard Branson, announced last week the formation of Virgin Orbit, a commercial space company that will offer low-cost launch services for small satellites from its 180,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Long Beach.
Virgin Orbit’s activities in the city’s Douglas Park complex were previously conducted as a division of Virgin Galactic, including as a manufacturing site for its LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle and its 747-400 flying launch pad, dubbed Cosmic Girl.
Officials noted that the LauncherOne small satellite launch system is in the “advanced phase of hardware testing for every subsystem and major component of the vehicle—having already conducted long duration, full thrust firings of both of LauncherOne’s engines, cryogenic tank tests, and hardware-in-the-loop testing of the vehicle’s avionics.”
In addition, the LauncherOne service has a “substantial order book” with customers from both the commercial and government sector.
“During my recent visits, the superstar team of women and men at Virgin Orbit’s design and manufacturing facility in Long Beach, California has shown me the fantastic hardware they’ve built, tested, and improved upon,” Branson wrote in his blog. “By offering low cost and frequent service to space, the team is revolutionising the small satellite market within the promising space economy. And so it makes sense to support their growth by giving them their own company.”
Virgin officials also announced the man who will be heading up Virgin Orbit and its team of more than 200 experienced aerospace professionals, 34-year Boeing veteran Dan Hart, who served as the company’s vice president of government satellite systems, officials stated.
Virgin Orbit is the latest company in Virgin Group’s commercial space portfolio, following Virgin Galactic, which focuses on human spaceflight, and The Spaceship Company, concentrating in the design, manufacturing and testing of aerospace vehicles.
“It has been my longheld dream to open access to space to change the world for good,” Branson said in a statement. “We have been striving to do that by manufacturing vehicles of the future, enabling the small satellite revolution, and preparing commercial space flight for many more humans to reach space and see our home planet. I’m thrilled that our small satellite launch service has now progressed to the point it merits the formation of its own company, Virgin Orbit, and a new president in Dan with decades of deep experience and success in a broad variety of space programs.”