Virgin Orbit to bring its first orbital launch capabilities to Brazil

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket – carrying a payload of 10 small satellites – deploys from Cosmic Girl, the company’s modified 747, on January 17, 2021. Photo courtesy of Virgin Orbit.

The Brazilian space agency and the Brazilian Air Force have called on Virgin Orbit to bring orbital launch capabilities to the country, which has never completed a successful indoor launch into orbit, the company said on Wednesday.

Virgin Orbit’s LaunchOne system – which deploys from the company’s modified Boeing 474 aircraft during flight – allows for a smaller launch footprint, requiring no ongoing infrastructure development or facility expansions.

The launches would take place from the Alcântara launch center, on the north coast of Brazil, near the equator. Virgin Orbit’s launch system will fly from the existing air base and travel hundreds of miles before launching the rocket directly over the equator or other optimal locations for each individual mission.

“Alcântara is one of the most ideal places in the world to launch rockets. It is close to the equator, which increases the payload capacity of the launcher and allows a wide range of azimuths for launches, with access to all orbits, ”said Brazilian Space Agency President Carlos Moura in a press release.

Alcântara will become one of the only continental space ports in the world capable of reaching any orbital tilt, according to the announcement. Since its construction in 1982, Alcântara has hosted dozens of unmanned suborbital research rocket launches but has never been used to reach orbit.

“When we put the Center into operation, we will overcome a historic challenge for the program, which means a commitment to Brazil and the global community towards ever greater achievements for humanity,” Moura said.

The first flight since the installation will make Alcântara the second orbital-class spaceport in South America and only the fifth in the southern hemisphere, according to the announcement.

All the equipment required for launches is fully transportable, allowing the team to safely transport the entire system, perform a launch, and return to one of the company’s other facilities without further ado. construction beyond the airbase, Virgin Orbit said.

“The people of Brazil have been working patiently and diligently on the orbital launch for many years now,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a statement, “and it will be a great honor to help make this vision a reality. national. “


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