UK Spaceport Improvements for Virgin Orbit

24th Apr 2020
Richard Branson, Virgin Orbit

The UK Space Agency approved a package worth £7.35 million to assist Virgin Orbit’s launch system in November 2019. The money will be used for infrastructure as well as mission planning and support equipment activities at the UK Spaceport in Cornwall. What does Richard Branson’s company do there? Well, it plans flights using the LauncherOne air-launched orbital vehicle.

Later that month, Cornwall Council approved a total of £10.3 million to fund improvements at the local facility. The decision was made after roughly three hours of debate, but the investments in the area will help the local economy and community tremendously according to the project leaders.

Virgin Orbit is a subsidiary of Virgin, and its main missions are to develop a technological system that is able to send satellites into orbit, unlike Virgin Galactic—which is dedicated to space tourism.

UK Spaceport Grants Help A Lot In A Competitive Market

Right now, Virgin Orbit is working on the LauncherOne in multiple continents and has recently looked at Oita Airport in Japan—with the Space Port Japan Association and ANA Holdings.

The grants the company received in the UK will help boost the its investments and speed up the processes.

Virgin has another significant competitor in the UK – Orbex, who are developing a spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, so moving fast is critical in such a competitive situation.

LauncherOne is designed to launch a 300-kilogram (around 660 lb) payload to a 500-kilometer (approximately 310 miles) Sun-synchronous orbit. This is suitable for small payloads and CubeSats, with a cost of less than £9.6 million. The company selected the UK Spaceport in Cornwall as a place for testing and development, and it expects to finalize the project in 2022.

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