Virgin Orbit is ready to expand its footprint in the Southern Hemisphere by announcing a launch site in Australia. The satellite launch provider started commercial service last year and since then has been planning its expansion around the globe. Australia’s Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport is all set to get upgraded to become its latest launch site.

Collaboration

Australia’s Wagner Corporation, which owns the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport and Business Park in Queensland, announced on September 20th that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Virgin Orbit to launch rockets into space by 2024.

The agreement will allow the companies to begin the process of implementing a national launch capability from Australia to provide satellite launch services from the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport using Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne System.

Virgin Orbit 747

Virgin Orbit aims to provide satellite launch services from Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart commented,

“We’re thrilled to be working alongside Wagner Corporation, one of the region’s most successful privately-owned companies, to bring the first national orbital launch to Australia. Combining their deep knowledge of infrastructure development and affinity for aerospace with our proven, responsive LauncherOne system, we have all the ingredients to bring spaceflight to Queensland.”

Roadmap in Australia

Wagner Corporation will combine its local expertise with Virgin Orbit’s launch and mission expertise to focus its initial efforts on tailoring LauncherOne operations from Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport to comply with Australian launch licensing regulatory requirements and spaceport-specific operations.

The next step is to plan out the way forward to upgrade Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport so that LauncherOne’s Mobile Ground Support Equipment and other infrastructure could be built there.

Virgin Orbit 747

Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport will be upgraded for satellite launch services. Photo: Virgin Orbit

The two companies will work together on a roadmap that will seek to lay out the steps required to enable the first flights of LauncherOne to occur from Australia in as soon as 16-18 months.

The joint mission is expected to help certify Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport as a national spaceport to perform an orbital launch demonstration as early as 2024, catalyzing the maturing Australian small satellite and space solutions market and stimulating local economic growth.

James Brown, CEO Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA), said,

“Australian space is open for business. We are excited to see a leading global launch company working with Australian industry to develop an agile, responsive solution for space clients.”

Increasing presence

Virgin Orbit works with both governmental and private organizations. It launched commercial service in June 2021, carrying four R&D satellites for the US Department of Defense Space Test Program, one of its first three customers.

It has two other space bases, one in the Mojave Desert and one in Cornwall, UK. The company started offering launch service with a modified Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft. Dubbed “Cosmic Girl,” it allows Virgin Orbit to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs.

Virgin Orbit 747 launching satellite

Virgin Orbit uses a modified Boeing 747 dubbed “Cosmic Girl.” Photo: Virgin Orbit

In May, Virgin Orbit announced that by next year, it will obtain a second Boeing 747-400 aircraft, which will be modified to feature an improved layout and the ability to carry up to two LauncherOne rockets and the logistic and ground support equipment to launch sites worldwide.

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Source: simpleflying.com

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