Virgin Orbit to expand fleet with additional Boeing 747 aircraft

Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl on the ground with LauncherOne
Virgin Orbit
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
11 May 2022

Virgin Orbit has signed an agreement with L3Harris Technologies to acquire two Boeing 747-400 aircraft to support the growing demand for satellite launches.

L3Harris will modify one of the aircraft to serve as an additional airborne launch pad for Virgin Orbit’s small satellite launch service, with delivery expected in 2023. L3Harris will also overhaul the platform with a new cargo configuration, which is expected to allow Virgin Orbit to deliver its rockets and ground support equipment in the same aircraft that will launch from foreign spaceports.

L3Harris and Virgin Orbit have worked together before to produce Virgin Orbit's flagship aircraft Cosmic Girl, which was previously a passenger plane flown by Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl in flight
Virgin Orbit

“Virgin Orbit is at an exciting juncture in our growth as a company,” said CEO Dan Hart. “As we expand our fleet to serve customers worldwide, we’re enthusiastic to once again partner with L3Harris.”

Luke Savoie, president of ISR Systems at L3Harris, added: “It’s inspiring for our team to see L3Harris’ aircraft engineering and modification experience in action on a mission-enabling platform that has performed brilliantly in its space launch role. We’re excited to help double Virgin Orbit’s innovative fleet so they can serve their customers with greater capacity and mission flexibility.”

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl has already completed three commercial launches, successfully deploying 26 customer satellites into orbit for multiple commercial, government and military customers. The aircraft will continue to fly missions, including the first launch from the UK expected later this year from Spaceport Cornwall.

Visit Virgin Orbit to find out more.