Virgin Orbit Successfully Reaches Orbit as Commercial Space Heats Up for the Company

By Thomas Price Wednesday, January 20, 2021

As the commercial space industry continues to grow in the modern world, names outside of SpaceX have begun to make major strides. One of those companies, without a doubt, is Virgin Galactic. The company created by billionaire Richard Branson eventually led to Virgin Orbit, a spinoff sister company more closely focused on launching satellites, among other projects. The company has certainly faced struggles in the past; however, Virgin Orbit’s most recent launch and deployment of satellites was a major success. Considering the recent launch, what is Virgin Orbit’s business model, what are the details of the launch, and what sort of revenue and projects can be expected from it in the near future?

Virgin Orbit as a Company

Virgin Orbit is the sister company of Virgin Galactic, which was already a side project from founder Richard Branson, the head of companies ranging from Virgin Mobile and Virgin Wine to Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Hotels. Virgin Orbit, in particular, was originally spun off from Virgin Galactic to serve specifically the small-satellite industry, which has been growing immensely in recent years as commercial space travel has become more accessible.

The company has proven to be a successful venture, with revenues for the company reaching over $174 million in 2018. Virgin Orbit also raised funding in 2019 from the UK Space Agency, totaling $9.5 million. The company recently launched its second attempt to bring its rocket into orbit after failing to do so in Virgin Orbit’s first test launch in 2020.

Virgin Orbit’s Recent Launch

The company’s most recent launch was not a failure. Instead, the launch successfully reached orbit and deployed ten different payloads for NASA’s Launch Services Program. In contrast to many other commercial space travel companies, Virgin Orbit launches through a process known as an air launch. An air launch is when the rocket is already lifted up in the air by being attached to a customized 747-00 aircraft, which helps drastically improve the payload capacity of the rocket itself.

The payloads that Virgin Orbit was deploying were all a part of NASA’s Launch Services Program’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The missions and designs were tested and created by universities such as Brigham Young University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

When commenting on the company’s recent successful launch, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said, “A new gateway to space has just sprung open! That LauncherOne was able to successfully reach orbit today is a testament to this team’s talent, precision, drive, and ingenuity. Even in the face of a global pandemic, we’ve maintained a laser focus on fully demonstrating every element of this revolutionary launch system. That effort paid off today with a beautifully executed mission, and we couldn’t be happier.”

Final Conclusions

Virgin Orbit is breaking new ground in the commercial space travel industry. With this successful launch, Virgin Orbit is officially within the larger conversation of the true major players in the industry, and expectations for the future are in the stratosphere.

About the Author


Headshot for author Thomas Price

Tom Price is a writer focusing on Entertainment and Sports Features. He has a degree from NYU in English with a minor in Creative Writing. He has been previously published for Washington Square News, Dignitas, CBR, and Numbers on the Boards.

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