A Picture-Perfect Launch
"Blue Skies Went to Black:” Mission Recap: Launch Demo 2
As you read this, 10 small satellites launched by LauncherOne are tracing graceful orbits around the Earth, after successfully flying to space this month on our Launch Demo 2 mission.

Our January 17th flight marked a number of significant firsts, both for us as a team and for the industry more broadly. Not only was it the first flight to orbit from Mojave Air and Space Port, it was also the first successful air launch of a liquid-fueled orbital-class rocket, as well as the first time LauncherOne carried customer payloads in its fairing. And yet even on top of all those incredible achievements, what we'll likely remember most is the overwhelming sense of awe and pride we felt as we watched our rocket power itself all the way to orbit.

By all metrics, Launch Demo 2 was a picture-perfect mission: from initial propellant loading operations on the ground all the way through to Cosmic Girl's arrival at the drop point, we flawlessly executed every step of our planned launch operations. 

As Cosmic Girl released LauncherOne and the rocket began its powered flight, our engineers kept a close eye on the data flowing in — all of which was telling us we were right on track. Then, within a couple of hours, we were able to confirm that we did indeed deploy all 10 NASA-sponsored spacecraft into their precise target orbit — 500 kilometers above the Earth at an inclination of 60 degrees.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart put it well shortly after the flight: "A new gateway to space has just sprung open!"

Having triumphed in getting LauncherOne to orbit, we can now turn our full attention to serving our customers and establishing ourselves as an operational company. 2020 was a banner year for our team, but 2021 is when we'll blow the roof off the space industry. 
Read Our Full Recap
Expanding Our Manifest
From the very beginnings of our company, we knew we wanted to help get a whole new set of customers involved in the realm of space. So we're particularly excited about our latest contract announcement with the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), who has tasked us with launching their first ever satellite, BRIK-II, later this year. 

Designed and integrated by Dutch space engineering company Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS), BRIK-II will serve as a testbed for a variety of communications experiments, signifying RNLAF's concerted efforts to explore how nanosatellites can provide a meaningful contribution to defense operations. The Dutch Ministry of Defense has expressed a specific interest in pursuing "responsive space" capabilities — and as such, we're planning on jointly demonstrating a late-load integration, meaning we'll mate the payload to LauncherOne shortly prior to launch.

Together with RNLAF, the Virgin Orbit team will analyze the results of that demonstration and document our insights in a future whitepaper to be shared with allied partners.

We're very proud to be #PartnersInSpace with our friends in the Netherlands, and we're looking forward to getting their first spacecraft off the ground and into space in 2021.
RNLAF's BRIK-II satellite, set to fly on LauncherOne later this year. Photo: Dutch Ministry of Defense.
Check Out the Details

In the News

  • Hungry for even more information around our successful Launch Demo 2 mission? Get the full download from CNN.
  • Late last year we announced a launch contract with another new customer, Junior Astronaut, a UK-based company working to inspire young kids to pursue careers in STEM. If you missed that announcement, you can learn more in The Grunion, our local Long Beach newspaper. 
  • Despite concerns that the Covid-19 pandemic would stifle investment in the space industry, 2020 turned out to be yet another record year with $8.9 billion invested, according to Space Capital. Read the full story on CNBC.
  • VOX Space President Mandy Vaughn has been selected to chair the National Security Space Association's (NSSA) Education and Workforce Development Center. In this role, Mandy will work to ensure the US has a diverse and well-educated national security space workforce as we head into the future. Read more on the NSSA website.
  • Mandy also recently spoke at a webinar organized by the non-profit NewSpace New Mexico, where she urged the incoming Biden administration to continue the operations of the National Space Council. Read more in SpaceNews.

In Our Orbit

As our first ever batch of customers begin to downlink data from their satellites, we're taking a deeper dive into each of the missions that flew onboard LauncherOne this month. Our first batch features CACTUS-1 from Capitol Technology University, ExoCube from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and CAPE-3 from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

Hear directly from the payload teams themselves as they talk about some of the scientific goals of their spacecraft.
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