Virgin Orbit Confirms Top-Secret MoD Mission30th Jun 2022
The first rocket launch from British Soil is in the works, and Virgin Orbit is releasing new details of the mission. The payload will include a space communications testbed for US and UK government agencies. Virgin Orbit specified that these are the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), respectively.
The launch provider has confirmed that they will deliver two two “Prometheus 2” CubeSats from Cornwall up into the low-Earth orbit. Prometheus 2 is a cup-shaped miniature satellite that has faces measuring 3.9 inches.
The satellites will be transported via an air-launched, two-stage rocket. A modified Boeing 747, dubbed Cosmic Girl, will carry the Launcher One rocket up into the atmosphere.
According to Virgin Orbit, the CubeSats form a testing platform for radio signal monitoring, including GPS, and advanced imaging technology.
The president of Virgin Orbit National Systems, Mark Baird, said the following:
“We could not be more excited to support our National Security Space and UK mission partners in this incredible, historic launch.
“We believe the ‘Anytime, Anywhere, Unwarned’ capability we are driving to bring the US and our Allied partners is a game-changer.
The Virgin Orbit Launch from Newquay Airport
The launch is taking place from Newquay Airport, in Cornwall. The launch showcases the ability to deploy Cosmic Girl from any 747-capable airfield around the world.
Virgin Orbit has been making preparations for the lift-off by working with the team at Spaceport Cornwall. The Royal Air Force and the UK Civil Aviation Authority are also involved.
The mission represents the first time that NRO has used a ‘horizontal’ rocket and fired it via a flying launch platform.
The purpose is to showcase the advantaged of working together. The result is a less expensive yet more powerful and flexible communications system than one created alone.
The technology on the two satellites will help identify new techniques and algorithms for satellite operations and data processing.