Session

Technical Session 4: Space Access

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

The Launcher One air-launched rocket system, under commercial development by Virgin Orbit since 2015, is now fully flight-qualified. This small, dedicated launch vehicle first reached orbit on January 17th, 2021 as part of the NASA Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) ELaNa 20 mission, injecting ten small satellites into orbit. This historic mission saw the world’s first liquid-propulsion, orbital class air-launched vehicle succeed with incredible performance and accuracy.

Founded upon the capabilities of the Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft, LauncherOne maintains safe operations using flight controls and an Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) that have been fully internally-developed and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States. T his uniquely mobile launch system is designed to bring tailored small satellite launch services to any corner of the globe. This paper details the inaugural NASA VCLS LauncherOne mission. Review of the mission and customer outcome will reveal how some of the most challenging aspects of air-launch have now been achieved by the LauncherOne design.

In successfully overcoming the design challenges of a cryogenic air-launch vehicle, the substantial accompanying rewards can now be realized. We have shown how such a modular launch system can be replicated and disaggregated across many sites, offering flexibility and extreme orbital access for small satellites without a fixed infrastructure or permanent footprint. Accordingly, we have continued to grow our spaceport network to support domestic and international mission planners that benefit from such a capability. The status of these activities and facilities will be discussed.

Following extensive qualification testing, the NASA VCLS mission success, and all of the associated cryogenic loading and vehicle preparation operations successfully completed from an austere runway apron, LauncherOne’s air-launch approach is now proven to be foundationally responsive. Virgin Orbit and the dedicated, flight-proven LauncherOne system are now uniquely positioned to both serve and grow the global small satellite market from spaceports around the world.

Available for download on Saturday, August 07, 2021

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Aug 11th, 9:00 AM

LauncherOne Now in Orbit: Dedicated Air-Launch Brings Proven, Responsive Space Access with Historic NASA VCLS Demonstration Mission

Utah State University, Logan, UT

The Launcher One air-launched rocket system, under commercial development by Virgin Orbit since 2015, is now fully flight-qualified. This small, dedicated launch vehicle first reached orbit on January 17th, 2021 as part of the NASA Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) ELaNa 20 mission, injecting ten small satellites into orbit. This historic mission saw the world’s first liquid-propulsion, orbital class air-launched vehicle succeed with incredible performance and accuracy.

Founded upon the capabilities of the Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft, LauncherOne maintains safe operations using flight controls and an Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) that have been fully internally-developed and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States. T his uniquely mobile launch system is designed to bring tailored small satellite launch services to any corner of the globe. This paper details the inaugural NASA VCLS LauncherOne mission. Review of the mission and customer outcome will reveal how some of the most challenging aspects of air-launch have now been achieved by the LauncherOne design.

In successfully overcoming the design challenges of a cryogenic air-launch vehicle, the substantial accompanying rewards can now be realized. We have shown how such a modular launch system can be replicated and disaggregated across many sites, offering flexibility and extreme orbital access for small satellites without a fixed infrastructure or permanent footprint. Accordingly, we have continued to grow our spaceport network to support domestic and international mission planners that benefit from such a capability. The status of these activities and facilities will be discussed.

Following extensive qualification testing, the NASA VCLS mission success, and all of the associated cryogenic loading and vehicle preparation operations successfully completed from an austere runway apron, LauncherOne’s air-launch approach is now proven to be foundationally responsive. Virgin Orbit and the dedicated, flight-proven LauncherOne system are now uniquely positioned to both serve and grow the global small satellite market from spaceports around the world.