Virgin Orbit’s next LauncherOne flight, scheduled for no early than December 22, will carry a Spire cubesat as well as numerous additional payloads. Spire’s ADLER-1 three-unit cubesat has been included in the manifest for Virgin Orbit’s forthcoming launch, “Above the Clouds,” Virgin Orbit announced on December 9. The satellite was created in collaboration with the Findus Venture GmbH and Austrian Space Forum and is called Austrian Debris Detection Low Earth (orbit) Reconnoiter. It will use a short-range radar supplied by Spire to gather data on the environment of “micro” space debris in the low Earth orbit.
Dan Hart, the CEO of Virgin Orbit, said in a statement that it took only 20 days from the original conversations to the deal to add the satellite, and then 36 hours to acquire FAA approval to join the satellite to the trip and incorporate it onto the vehicle.
“Spire’s recent inclusion to Above the Clouds is a perfect illustration of LauncherOne’s adaptability, the elasticity of both our teams and the FAA’s flexibility and assistance in enabling fast and responsive satellite deployment to low Earth orbit,” Hart added. The mission was announced by Virgin Orbit in November. The Defense Department’s STP (Space Test Program) and Polish satellite company SatRevolution were the two customers at the time. STP is flying numerous smallsats from government agencies, as well as a university payload, to evaluate communications and navigation technology. SatRevolution is launching its STORK-3 imaging satellite as well as SteamSat-2, which is a satellite which will test water-propelled thrusters produced by SteamJet Space Systems in the United Kingdom.
Virgin Orbit said in a statement that the launch of the Spire satellite will take place between mid-December to mid-January. According to a notice to mariners issued by the United States Coast Guard on December 8, the business plans to launch between 5 to 8 p.m. Eastern on December 22, with backup dates of December 23 and January 8–10.
The deployment will be LauncherOne’s fourth flight. The rocket’s first-stage engine went down a few seconds into the flight, preventing the rocket from reaching orbit. In January, the business launched its second rocket into space, which was followed by another spectacular launch in June.
Virgin Orbit’s merger with NextGen Acquisition Corporation II, which is a special purpose acquisition firm, is also nearing completion (SPAC). The deal, which was announced on August 23, was going to turn Virgin Orbit into a Nasdaq-listed business and raise up to $483 million for the company’s expansion.
The two firms announced on December 8 that the Securities and Exchange Commission had certified the merger’s registration statement valid, which is a critical step toward the deal’s completion. NextGen shareholders will vote on the merger on December 28, with the firms finalizing it “as soon as practical” after the vote.