Virgin Orbit has announced it is working with Japan’s largest airline group to bring its LauncherOne service to Asia for the first time.
The small satellite launch company has signed an agreement with ANA Holdings, parent company of All Nippon Airways, to bring its system to Japan. Subject to US Government regulatory approvals, Virgin Orbit’s unique and responsive system – which uses a 747 widebody jet as a ‘flying launch pad’ for its rocket – will complement existing japanese ground launch vehicles, enabling near-term access to space by the private sector. It will also help to grow the country’s burgeoning small satellite ecosystem and help to elevate Japan as the premier space transport hub in Asia.
The long-term partnership between ANA Holdings and Virgin Orbit will further strengthen ties between the US and Japan for cooperative, peaceful space activities. Under the terms of the agreement, All Nippon Airways will evaluate the capabilities to provide aircraft and ground support equipment maintenance and potentially additional aircraft to support Virgin Orbit’s local launch operations, as well as logistics and transport services for Virgin Orbit’s broader launch operations across Asia. The two companies will also partner with Space Port Japan to select and stand-up an ideal launch site to host LauncherOne operations in Japan.
“Japan has long been a global source of innovation and a leader in space, and with the small satellite market growing so impressively, we are seeing countless new satellite applications and businesses emerge in the region. With this new partnership, we’re excited to bring LauncherOne’s unique responsiveness and flexibility to Asia for the first time,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “ANA has the respect and trust of customers around the world – and we look forward to working closely with them to stimulate the small satellite market in Japan.”
The announcement comes just after Virgin Orbit revealed it plans to bring its launch service to Cornwall. By having operating hubs all around the world, Virgin Orbit can serve customers of every type, helping truly open space for everyone. Richard Branson said that Virgin Orbit is “in a unique position to stimulate the space economy, strengthen the US-UK partnership, and inspire a whole new generation of space lovers”.
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system is now in the final phases of testing and recently completed its longest and most important main stage hotfire test yet.