Virgin Orbit Collaborates With Oita To Establish The First Asian Rocket Launchpad

20th Apr 2020
Oita Prefecture

Virgin Orbit has announced a new partnership with Oita Prefecture from Japan. The partnership is also supported by the Space Port Japan Association and ANA Holdings Inc, and the first Oita launch will soon take place around 2020, using Virgin Orbit’s small satellite launch system LauncherOne.

To facilitate this, Oita Prefecture and Virgin Orbit have agreed to commence a join technical field study that will hasten the future spaceport’s development process.

Apart from Oita, Virgin Orbit already has three different launch sites: Guam, the Mojave Desert, and Florida. The company has also signed an agreement with the UK Space Agency for developing a spaceport at Cornwall.

The LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California. They will be launched from a 747-400 carrier aircraft; therefore, the satellites can be operated from different locations. The systems of the aircraft are at an advanced stages of testing, with the first few orbital launches to be done in the coming future, according to Virgin Orbit.

What Are The Thoughts Of Both Parties About This Partnership?

Katsuda Hirose, the Governor of the Oita Prefectural Government, states that the organization is more than happy to host the first horizontal launch and landing spaceport in Japan. He mentions that he is proud to have joined hands with leading technological companies in solving global-level problems via small satellites. Hirose hopes to start a collaboration with Virgin Orbit to foster a cluster in the space industry.

The CEO of Virgin Orbit, Dan Hart, states that the uses of smaller satellites are increasing globally. Due to this, it can be expected for other launch-related activities to grow as well. These are some reasons why a flexible domestic launch capability has become so important. Hart mentions that the most crucial element that will ensure the responsiveness of the launch, and its availability is a core enabler for the growing space economy.

Dan Hart also expresses his happiness for Virgin Orbit to be working alongside Oita Prefecture to enable the launch operations; additionally, establishing a regional launch hub for Asia will also stimulate the local economy and broaden the country’s space ecosystem.

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