DECEMBER 2019 –
The Italian company Leaf Space, startup operating in the New Space economy, has signed an important agreement with Long Beach, California-based Virgin Orbit for receiving telemetry data during the test flight of LauncherOne, the innovative air-launched system for small satellites.
The US team manufacturing and operating LauncherOne will be performing testing procedures in the next few weeks, culminating with an orbital flight test. Rather than being launched from the ground, LauncherOne is lifted above 10.000 meters beneath Cosmic Girl’s wing, a modified Boeing 747 taken from the Virgin Atlantic aircraft fleet. Having reached the target altitude and orientation, the rocket is released from Cosmic Girl, initiating the main stage engine and accelerating toward the final orbit, ferrying the on-board payload to space. Being the primary payloads, these small satellites can be placed in the exact desired orbit, alternatively to what happens on most rideshare missions: a Copernican revolution for the smallsat industry.
Leaf Space will be one of the service providers chosen by Virgin Orbit for this launch demonstration. At the scale-up’s HQ in Lomazzo, near Milan, Italy, the company engineers have finalized the assembly of the ground station operating a 3m dish which will track the LauncherOne in the initial stages of the mission. Operations for the flight test will be securely provided from Leaf Space’s control center utilizing innovative systems designed and managed by the capable software engineers.
“It’s a challenging mission” comments Jonata Puglia, Leaf Space CEO, “when we first met Virgin Orbit in late summer in the US, we were satisfied with the attention received by such a renown group, but at the same time aware it was necessary for us to gain their trust. It’s the first step we make in providing ground segment services to launch providers, not only satellite operators”. In just a few days the team of Leaf Space engineers developed a cutting-edge technical proposal which was both agile and cost effective, to be delivered to the American customers. Having conducted the necessary technical and commercial analysis, the contract was signed for enabling Virgin Orbit to test Leaf Space’s solution during the first launch demonstration of the LauncherOne rocket within the end of the year.
“The partnership with Virgin Orbit represents an important step in the company’s scale up process. This year we initiated the strategy to develop our commercial outreach towards the US market. Virgin Orbit is our fourth customer in the US, having a strategic relevance. Showing satellite operators on board LauncherOne our ground segment as-a-service capabilities in the launch and commissioning phases assures us a strong technical and commercial credibility, cornerstone for our future growth”. The company’s industrial plan focuses on expanding offices worldwide and deploying over 40 ground stations (starting from the 4 currently active in Europe and 2 to be activated in the US very soon).
Leaf Space also appeared in one of Italy’s main newspapers, Corriere della Sera. Link to the article here.
About Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit provides dedicated, responsive, and affordable launch services for small satellites. Virgin Orbit is developing LauncherOne, a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from a modified 747-400 carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Virgin Orbit’s systems are currently in an advanced stage of testing, with initial orbital launches expected soon. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit virginorbit.com.