Could this be the Virgin Orbit replacement?

3rd Mar 2024
Could this be the Virgin Orbit replacement?

Prestwick Airport-based compan, Astraius are preparing to enter the UK space race in a very unique way. The company plan to launch a rocket carrying a satellite payload horizontally from a C-17 carrier plane from the Scottish west coast airport.

Prestwick Spaceport, the hub based at the airport is home to a number of Space related companies, but none is more interesting than the startup Astraius. 

Established in 2020, Astraius has an ambitious plan to launch rockets horizontally from the cargo hold of the C-17. Initially planned for 2024, the launch may have a delay as Astraius, like the space industry in general, experienced significant setbacks as a result of Covid.

Unlike Virgin Orbit, who had planned to launch their Launcher One rocket from the underwing of a Boeing 747, the Ayrshire aerospace company will load their rocket within the interior of the C-17 and when reaching a safe launch height will open the rear cargo doors and release their rocket from there.

A brief glance at the Astraius board of directors shows a strong military background is a common trait amongst the company’s top brass. So it’s no surprise that they have taken this approach in creating their launch system.

With Virgin Orbit permanently out of the picture, Astraius represents the UK’s sole possible purveyor of this very flexible launch technology.

A Boeing lifeline?
In 2023, Astraius marked the inking of a memorandum of understanding with fellow Prestwick Space Cluster resident Spirit AeroSystems, the UK arm of the American aerospace defense giant. It is currently unknown how much the purchase will affect UK operations. Boeing needs the technology that SpiritAeroSystems possesses to restore the public’s trust after Boeing’s 737 began to fail while in the air. The UK operation, being more satellite-focused, will not play a major role in reworking the Boeing aircraft.

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