A Continuing Series
|(May 2, 2021, 6:30 a.m.) -- Virgin Orbit, a satellite launch firm based in Long Beach's Douglas Park (4022 E Conant St.) has capitalized on its unique ability to launch from basically anywhere (using its specially equipped 747 aircraft "Cosmic Girl") by inking a deal with the Brazilian Space Agency and Brazilian Air Force to bring orbital launch capabilities to Brazil.
In a release, Virgin Orbit says its unique air launched system ("Launcher 1," basically a flying launch pad under "Cosmic Girl") provides "mobility and a small footprint of Virgin Orbit’s air-launched system" to enable "a wide range of orbital inclinations" that could quickly become possible without entailing new permanent infrastructure or expanding existing facilities.
Brazil hasn't yet successfully completed a domestic launch from its Alcântara Space Center, two degrees south of the equator on Brazil's northern coast. Virgin Orbit plans to leverage that existing infrastructure and fly to locations from which its "Launcher One" wil propel the orbital rocket payload and release it "optimized for each individual mission " Virgin Orbit says the approach will enable "Alcântara to become one of the only continental spaceports in the world capable of reaching any orbital inclination." .
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"Launcher One’s first flight from the facility would transform Alcântara into the second orbital-class spaceport in all of South America, and only the fifth in the entire Southern Hemisphere," Virgin Orbit notes.
"The people of Brazil have been patiently and diligently working towards orbital launch for many years now, and it will be a tremendous honor to help make that vision a domestic reality," said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. "There’s really no better place on the planet than Alcântara for an equatorial launch site. And with hundreds of miles of cross range on our flying launch pad, the potential is boundless. We're eager to work with our colleagues at AEB and FAB to bring this vital new capability to Alcântara."
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com (part of our continuing series "Long Beach's Future in Space"), QinetiQ (a defense and security company) and HyperSat (a geospatial analytics company) chose Virgin Orbit to launch a series of six hyperspectral satellites into to Low Earth Orbit."in part because of the unparalleled agility, mobility, and responsiveness afforded by air-launch, which allows for shorter call-up times and more flexible scheduling for customers, as well as direct injection into precise target orbits."
Long Beach is also home to Rocket Lab, officed at 3881 McGowen St. which launches self-manufactured rockets from a facility in New Zealand to deliver small satellites into low earth orbits, and Relativity, HQ'd at 3500 E Burnett, now developing a printed rocket. Space X recently agreed to use a portion of the Port of Long Beach's Pier T as a marine terminal to dock vessels and offload equipment as part of west coast rocket recovery operations
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