Virgin Orbit, the small satellite launch venture spun out of commercial space company Virgin Galactic, has secured a contract to demonstrate its air-launched rocket technology through the Defense Department‘s Space Test Program, TechCrunch reported Thursday.
The report said Long Beach, California-based Virgin Orbit expects the LauncherOne prototype flight to take place as early as January 2019.
LauncherOne is designed to launch small satellites into low-Earth orbit via carrier aircraft derived from the Boeing 747-400 platform.
Space News reported the mission was contracted through a partnership between DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental and the U.S. Air Force using “other transaction authority.”
Virgin Orbit also established a subsidiary to offer mission management and engineering support services to government customers that aim to fly payload on LauncherOne.
VOX Space will focus on potential customers in the national security sector, the report noted.