Virgin Orbit selects Guam as satellite launch site

Guam was selected as the second launch site for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Service. LauncherOne is a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. (Photo from Virgin Orbit)

(Press Release) – Guam has been selected as the second launch site for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Service. 

LauncherOne is a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. According to Virgin Orbit, the addition of Guam as a site location enhances the flexibility of Virgin Orbit’s launch operations, adding a low-latitude site with clear launch trajectories in almost all directions, giving Virgin Orbit’s customers unparalleled control over where and when their small spacecraft
are deployed.

Officials at US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) have issued a letter of support for Andersen Air
Force Base to host launches and other exercises with LauncherOne and its dedicated
carrier aircraft—a critical step en route to a first launch from the island, which could occur
in as little as a year’s time.

Additionally, the largest commercial airport on the island, A.B. Won Pat International Airport, has begun the process of seeking its launch site operator’s license from the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation, in order to serve as a future launch site for Virgin Orbit.

“Launching from Guam gives us easy access to every orbital inclination our
customers need. With our air-launched system, we will fly out as any other airplane,
move out to sea and release our rocket. Our minimal footprint coupled with Guam’s
natural launch location results in a great match,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said.

“With the continued support from Governor Leon Guerrero and our partners in the DOD, we are well on our way towards providing new launch opportunities for small satellites that have waited too long for their ride to space, and we’re thankful to the local government in Guam for their enthusiasm and support,” Hart added.

Following the announcement, the Governor”s office issued a statement. “This is a rare opportunity for our island to be front and center of a groundbreaking space industry,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. “Guam has always been a rare gem known for great weather, a beautiful landscape and warm people, and now we can add space transportation to that list.”

In addition to the launch site’s primary appeal to commercial missions, VOX Space also
anticipates using Guam and other launch sites to provide responsive launch 2 capability to
the national security space community.

As part of a series of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Superiority Directorate located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, CA, among others, VOX Space is developing concepts for how commercially developed space capabilities can partner with and complement the U.S. Department of Defense’s existing mobility, transportation, and space launch systems.

According to Virgin Orbit, the LauncherOne system is now in the final phases of testing, after successfully demonstrating all major assemblies with multiple flight vehicles in production. Having just completed its fourth captive carry flight with a test rocket mated to the wing, Virgin Orbit is on track to conduct its first orbital test flight later this year.

By using a customized 747-400 aircraft as its “flying launch pad,” Virgin Orbit gains the
ability to quickly transport the entire launch site to new locations around the world,
launching each satellite from the optimal location.

This mobile approach to launch substantially reduces the expense required for infrastructure at each launch site.

In addition to the Mojave Air and Space Port—the California launch site that will be home to the company’s first orbital launch in the middle of this year, as well as subsequent launches to high inclination orbits—other spaceports both new and established have announced that they are working to prepare themselves for future missions of LauncherOne, including the Launch and Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom, the TarantoGrottaglie Airport in Italy, and others.