LONG BEACH, Calif. Officials at GomSpace, with headquarters in Denmark and an office in Alexandria, Virginia, are opting to launch several nanosatellites bound for low-inclination orbit in an aircraft tracking constellation onboard a LauncherOne rocket from Virgin Orbit, aerospace company and newest member of the Virgin Group, in Long Beach, California.
The flight is scheduled to occur in early 2019, and will deploy small satellites or smallsats to a constellation in low-inclination orbit to aid in timely and accurate aircraft and ocean vessel tracking.
GomSpace is using the launch to further build out the small satellite constellation that will use Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal monitoring to track civilian aircraft and ocean-going vessels. This satellite constellation will provide continuous monitoring between 37 degrees North and 37 degrees South, helping provide global situational awareness for air traffic controllers and shipping companies, and aiding in the identification and location of wayward or missing planes and ships.
“GomSpace is always happy to take another step forward as a global leader in the nanosatellite community. Virgin Orbit and LauncherOne are a key part of building out our ADS-B and AIS monitoring constellation, which is going to fill a need that is both socially and commercially important,” says GomSpace CEO Niels Buus. “Seeing the great work happening here at Virgin Orbit’s rocket factory today, we are more excited than ever for our flight on LauncherOne.”
The satellites slated for flight on LauncherOne are based closely on the flight-proven hardware used in the GOMX-1 and GOMX-3 missions, and will be designed, manufactured, and commissioned by GomSpace. The constellation will be operated by GomSpace’s Mauritius-based customer Aerial & Maritime Ltd. once in orbit.
“GomSpace has already proven that they have an excellent technological solution that works in space. Now, they need to build out the full constellation, and I’m thrilled that our team at Virgin Orbit is playing a key role in that,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart adds. “The ADS-B and AIS tracking that this constellation will provide helps make us here on Earth safer and more efficient, and we think that is an incredibly important mission.”
Virgin Orbit is currently in the process of qualification and test flight for the LauncherOne service, which includes both a two-stage expendable rocket and a reusable air-launch platform. The company has a fully assembled pathfinder rocket on the test stand in Mojave, Calif., and several more in manufacturing and assembly in Long Beach, Calif. The system’s 747-400 flying launch pad has begun its flight test campaign.
LauncherOne is designed to provide highly responsive, reliable, and affordable flights to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to small satellites. The initial flight of the LauncherOne system is targeted for the first half of 2018.
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, Calif., and will be air-launched from a dedicated 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.
GomSpace is a global designer, integrator, and manufacturer of high-end nanosatellites for customers in the academic, government, and commercial markets offering systems integration, nanosatellite subsystems, and advanced miniaturized radio technology. Headquartered in Denmark with subsidiaries in Sweden, North America, and Singapore, GomSpace has more than 150 employees and services customers in more than 50 countries.
Aerial & Maritime Ltd. is a global data provider and the company’s satellites will be capable of monitoring civilian aircraft and vessels based on reception of ADS-B and AIS-signals, respectively. A&M is an affiliated company of GomSpace Group AB.