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Virgin Galactic creates Virgin Orbit

Posted 14 March 2017 · Add Comment

Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic have created Virgin Orbit, a new commercial space company and appointed Dan Hart as its first President.

Copyright Virgin Galactic 

Virgin Orbit will offer flexible, routine and low cost launch services for small satellites via the LauncherOne system. Virgin Orbit’s activities were previously conducted as a division of Virgin Galactic.

Dan Hart joins Virgin Orbit after a distinguished 34 years at Boeing, where he was responsible for all of the company’s satellite programs for the US government and several allied countries. As Boeing’s Vice President of Government Satellite Systems, he led efforts in all phases of the aerospace product life cycle, from R&D through development, production and flight operations, and has supported numerous space launch missions across human spaceflight, satellite development, launch vehicle development, and missile defense.

Virgin Orbit is headquartered in a state-of-the-art 180,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Long Beach, California, and employs a team of more than 200 experienced aerospace professionals. Its vehicles include the LauncherOne rocket and its 747-400 flying launch pad, dubbed Cosmic Girl.

Copyright Virgin Galactic 

The LauncherOne service already has a substantial order book, including both commercial and government customers.

Virgin Orbit is the third company in Virgin Group’s commercial space portfolio, Galactic Ventures, led by CEO George T. Whitesides and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS. The three companies are developing world-leading aerospace products and services in the following categories:

  • Virgin Orbit: small satellite launch services, headquartered in Long Beach, CA.
  • Virgin Galactic: human spaceflight, based in Mojave, CA during flight test and commercial service in New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
  • The Spaceship Company: design, manufacturing, and testing of aerospace vehicles. Headquartered in Mojave, CA.

The announcements come as the LauncherOne small satellite launch system is in the advanced phase of hardware testing for every subsystem and major component of the vehicle, having already conducted long duration, full thrust firings of both of LauncherOne’s engines, cryogenic tank tests and hardware-in-the-loop testing of the vehicle’s avionics.

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson said: “It has been my longheld dream to open access to space to change the world for good. We have been striving to do that by manufacturing vehicles of the future, enabling the small satellite revolution, and preparing commercial space flight for many more humans to reach space and see our home planet. I’m thrilled that our small satellite launch service has now progressed to the point it merits the formation of its own company, Virgin Orbit, and a new president in Dan with decades of deep experience and success in a broad variety of space programmes.”

Above: Sir Richard and George T. Whiteside.
Courtesy Virgin Galactic

Galactic Ventures CEO George T. Whitesides said: “Virgin Orbit will lead the world in responsive, affordable, dedicated launch for small satellites. Our new organizational structure positions each Virgin space company to achieve its full potential while remaining true to our shared purpose of opening space to all. It is a testament to the Virgin Orbit team that we start this chapter with our newest space company led by an exceptional individual like Dan.”

Copyright 2017 Virgin Orbit 

Virgin Orbit President Dan Hart (above) said: “The Virgin Galactic team has been boldly blazing the trail in a rapidly evolving space industry and I am thrilled to join the team. In 34 years at Boeing, I’ve had the honor to work on some of the most iconic and successful space programs in history including the Space Shuttle, the Delta launch program and satellite systems that have connected the world and protected our nation. Along the way, I’ve been privileged to work alongside incredibly talented engineers and industry leaders who have contributed to my own approach to innovation in space systems.

"The perfect next challenge is to lead Virgin Orbit’s entrepreneurial team through a transformative time for not only Virgin Orbit but also the industry. To me, the Virgin brand is about making life on Earth better, and we are going to fulfill that purpose by accessing Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to connect billions of people and enabling valuable applications of data from space through Virgin Orbit’s flexible, affordable, and reliable launch service.”


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