When we first dreamed up the idea of Virgin Orbit, we knew that we had to do small satellite launch differently. For us, air-launch was the key.
One of the biggest advantages of an air-launch system is that you don’t have to build out costly infrastructure on the ground. Instead, the Virgin Orbit team has pursued a more mobile approach, bringing everything they need with them to the launch site on a small fleet of specially designed trailers. There’s one for the rocket, one for the satellite in its protective fairing, and so on.
I was delighted to see the team prove out this modular concept in a recent fairing mate exercise. They spent the day practicing the last few critical steps of attaching the encapsulated payload to LauncherOne before takeoff.
For most other systems, this process must be done at the factory or at the pad with extensive gantry systems. This stretches out the vehicle assembly process and means mission owners often must say goodbye to their spacecraft well before lift-off. By taking our system right to the launch site, our customers have the best possible access to their spacecraft right up until take off.
The low cost and agility afforded by these mobile trailers makes all the difference for our launch service. No waiting in line at shared spaceports. No expensive launch-pad to build and repair. This is the kind of innovation in launch small satellites have been thirsty for. The small things can make a big difference.
The team told me it was a long but fruitful day, and everyone was pleased with the smooth process. Hats off to this gaggle of payload engineers and technicians. I’m so proud to see you all turning the dream of LauncherOne into a reality.
I have always believed that impeccable customer service is core to any good business. For Virgin Orbit, that means giving satellite makers and operators peace of mind because they know their spacecraft is in very good hands. You can learn more about the payload processing sequence on the Virgin Orbit website, and keep an eye on our social channels for more testing progress coming soon.