Virgin Galactic has announced the creation of a new commercial space company, Virgin Orbit, a satellite launching service that will complement the company’s growing suite of space ventures.
Previously conducted as a division of Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit proposes to offer flexible, reliable and low cost launch services for small satellites via the company’s LauncherOne system. LauncherOne works differently to traditional satellite launch systems as it is launched from an altitude of 35, 000 feet from the company’s dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft, Cosmic Girl, rather than from a dedicated launch pad at a spaceport. This set-up is beneficial for a number of reasons, including a versatile payload capacity to the flexibility of launch locations and launch timings.
The new company will be headed by Dan Hart, a veteran in the aerospace industry who previously led a distinguished career at Boeing. “The Virgin Galactic team has been boldly blazing the trail in a rapidly evolving space industry and I am thrilled to join the team,” said Hart.
“The perfect next challenge is to lead Virgin Orbit’s entrepreneurial team through a transformative time for not only Virgin Orbit but also the industry. To me, the Virgin brand is about making life on Earth better, and we are going to fulfill that purpose by accessing Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to connect billions of people and enabling valuable applications of data from space through Virgin Orbit’s flexible, affordable, and reliable launch service.”
Virgin Orbit will now become the third company in Virgin Group’s commercial space portfolio, Galactic Ventures, which is led by CEO George T. Whitesides and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS.
Talking of the recent announcement, Whitesides said, “Virgin Orbit will lead the world in responsive, affordable, dedicated launch for small satellites. Our new organizational structure positions each Virgin space company to achieve its full potential while remaining true to our shared purpose of opening space to all. It is a testament to the Virgin Orbit team that we start this chapter with our newest space company led by an exceptional individual like Dan.”