Virgin Orbit Sends Cosmic Girl on Practice Run5th Dec 2022
Horizontal launch company Virgin Orbit flew its Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl out for what was ostensibly a dry run on 2nd December. The flight occurred with little fanfare. However, it did not go unnoticed:
First permit but no date yet
Spaceport Cornwall made history in the UK on 16th November when it received from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) the first-ever permission to launch satellites. For contrast, the CAA has issued nearly 150 satellite licenses since becoming the industry’s regulator in 2021.
The license itself was issued after a lengthy period. Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart stated in a 7th November earnings call that obtaining permissions was taking longer than expected, but that there were ‘no showstoppers’ preventing the licenses from being issue. On the other hand, the approvals process was “taking a bit more effort than we anticipated”. Hart also stated that Virgin Orbit was working very closely with the new UK government and with Spaceport Cornwall on all issues, and that he still expected the Cornwall launch to occur before the end of 2022. Currently, the spaceport has a launch license but Virgin Orbit does not.
Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall technically prepared
By mid-November, all seven payloads had been integrated with Virgin Galactic’s Launcher One rocket. Following this step, the most important technical step remaining is mating Launcher One to the Boeing 747’s on-wing hard point.
The seven payloads come from a variety of British satellite builders and include government and commercial satellites. Navigation and radio location uses figure prominently among the satellites. These satellites include maritime vessel tracking, GPS and GNSS – related platforms. Earth observation payloads also feature in the historic launch. In keeping with the UKs emphasis on improving the sustainability of the Space industry, here is also a returnable and reusable test platform.