Virgin Orbit says it has been selected by the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force to provide launches of small satellites on short notice.
The Long Beach-based company announced Friday that the first launch for the ARTEMIS program could come as soon as 2020.
Virgin Orbit is developing an air-launch system in which a rocket carried aloft under the wing of a special Boeing 747-400 is released then fires its engine to insert payloads into orbit.
The company recently conducted a key drop test over a desert range.
Using the jet allows launches to be conducted at optimal locations around the world.
Launches for the RAF will be conducted on as little as a week’s notice.
Virgin Orbit is a sister company of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
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