Virgin Orbit Announced Spire Satellite as Payload for Upcoming Mission

29th Dec 2021
Virgin Orbit Announced Spire Satellite as Payload for Upcoming Mission

On 9th December, Virgin Orbit announced that it would be taking the Spire satellite as its next payload, scheduled to launch in January 2022. The mission, called Above the Clouds, was announced in November. The upcoming launch should be the fourth lift-off for Virgin Orbit’s air-launch LauncherOne system. 

Spire Satellite Will Join Two Other Payloads

Spire satellite, scheduled for launch in January 2022, was developed in a partnership with Findus Venture GmbH and the Austrian Space Forum. The name, ADLER-1, is an abbreviation from Austrian Debris Detection Low Earth Reconnoiter. The goal of the satellite is to collect information of micro space junk pieces with Spire’s short-range radar. 

When Virgin Orbit’s Above the Clouds mission was first announced in November, the company only disclosed two customers – the US DoD with its Space Test Program and Polish satellite manufacturer SatRevolution. The latter will fly a STORK-3 imager and SteamSat-2 spacecraft to test water-fuelled thrusters developed by SteamJet Space Systems from the UK. At the time of the mission announcement, Virgin did not have a third client yet. 

Virgin Orbit on Mission Details

According to Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart, it took only 20 days to negotiate Spire satellite as its next payload and only 36 hours to get launch permission from the FAA. Mr Hart emphasises that such negotiation and approval speed proves that the LauncherOne system is flexible and agile for both parties – the satellite maker and the launch operator. 

Right now, Virgin Orbit is nearing the conclusion of the SPAC merger with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II. NextGen shareholders were to be taking a vote on 28th December. Given Virgin Orbit’s commercial success this year and its steady acquisition of new payloads, Spire satellite included, the merger will most likely go as planned. 

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