This day on 25th June, Spaceflight announced its agreement with Virgin Orbit on rideshare mission for future seeking its options to diversify in launching smallsats. The Seattle based company, Spaceflight in its announcement said that it has entered into an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with virgin Orbit on one of its LauncherOne – air launch systems in the year 2019. LauncherOne has scheduled for its first launch during the latter part of this year.
President of Spaceflight, Curt Blake, announcing the agreement said that LauncherOne has its reputation of offering targeted and timely accessibility of the equator and mid-latitudes and the company is very much excited in providing its innovative services to its customers with its partnership with the Virgin Orbit.
Spaceflight has earned its reputation for the launch of smallsats as secondary payloads on a larger launch vehicle. While there have been more than 140 satellites launches by the company via such rideshare missions, there has been a limitation for customers on the orbits used primarily by heavier and primary payloads which have been typically either geostationary transfer or sun-synchronous orbit.
Melissa Wuerl, Vice President Business Development with Spaceflight, in an interview mentioned that there had been uprising demands for lower and mid inclined launches about a couple of years earlier, and customers have been looking for starts to those inclinations, but Spaceflight was not able to find launches for such customers. With LauncherOne, which is capable of carrying up to about 500 kilograms to lower Earth orbit, now offers a likely solution via its dedicated rideshare mission which can now be filled with modest payloads. Wuerl further said in her statement that the company is still on the process of finalizing the contract with Virgin orbit and identify who all will be on the list in the launch.
She further argued that there is another advantage of this dedicated rideshare mission which is the customer experience, and it is that Virgin will provide with Virgin Group customer experience and that’s being missing in any rideshare business, where the company is secondary and auxiliary to primary payload.
In a foray of dedicated launches, it is not the first of Spaceflight’s agreement, as the company also has a contract with SpaceX for a Falcon 9 dedicated launch, called the SSO-A, scheduled for launch later during this year and would be carrying several dozen payloads. Earlier in this month, the company also announced its agreement with Rocket Lab in where it will buy a vast majority of capacity on the three Electron launches by late 2018 and 2019.
Spaceflight will continue to be offering more of traditional rideshare services that will be based on customer needs and the available capacity on various other launches. Spaceflight works with launch providers, sharing the backlog on customers to identify payloads and it could accommodate during their starts, as Wurel mentioned.