ANA and Virgin Orbit to cooperate on satellite launch in Japan

ANA Holdings Inc. and US space company Virgin Orbit announced on Friday that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in launching satellites from aircraft in Japan.

The two companies will target 20 launches in 10 years from 2022 by flying the Virgin Orbit jet from an airport in Oita Prefecture, southwestern Japan, they said.

The photo provided shows the rendering of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket launched from an airplane. (Kyodo)

ANA Holdings, a parent company of All Nippon Airways Co., will fund the construction of mobile ground support equipment to prepare Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket system. ANA will also be responsible for obtaining regulatory approval in Japan and for marketing.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 will launch the rocket from an altitude of about 10 kilometers, making satellite launches weather-resistant and reducing rocket fuel use, the companies said.

ANA said it expects the new service with Virgin Orbit to meet growing demand from space startups in Japan and other parts of Asia.

The Japanese air group has sought to gain a foothold in the space industry, investing in Japanese spacecraft developer PD Aerospace Ltd. in 2016 and launching a project team in 2018 to explore new space ventures.

ANA and Virgin Orbit agreed in 2019 to work together to start a satellite launch business in Asia, including Japan.

Associated coverage:

Japan puts successor to aging satellite that improves GPS into orbit

Honda unveils new small business jet for long-haul non-stop flights

ANA records net loss amid COVID, but high freight demand limits damage

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