Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson's small
satellite launch company, has signed an agreement with ANA
Holdings to bring the company's LauncherOne service to Japan.
Subject to U.S. 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.
Under the terms of the MOU, ANA 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.
ANA and Virgin Orbit
will also partner with Space Port Japan to select and establish 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."
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system is now
in the final phases of testing, after successfully demonstrating
all major assemblies with multiple flight vehicles in production.
Having just entered its final series of captive carry flights with
a test rocket mated to the wing, Virgin Orbit is on track to
conduct its first orbital test flight later this year.