Virgin Galactic of Long Beach has spun off its small-satellite launch division into a new company called Virgin Orbit, according to a statement.
Virgin Orbit will continue development and testing of the LauncherOne rocket system, a rocket that is slung under a 747 aircraft, flown to high altitude, and then fired into orbit. The aerospace firm aims to send small satellites into space for less than $10 million, a price point cheaper than established launch systems.
This is the third company in Virgin Group’s space portfolio, which is run by its Galactic Ventures division and led by Chief Executive George T. Whitesides. Aabar Investments PJS is a co-owner of Galactic Ventures. The other two companies in the space division are Virgin Galactic, a firm planning to send tourists to space, and Spaceship Co., which provides design, manufacturing, and testing services for Virgin Galactic.
“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,” Whitesides said in a statement. “Virgin Orbit will lead the world in responsive, affordable, dedicated launch for small satellites.”
Virgin Orbit is led by President Dan Hart, who previously worked 34 years at Boeing, where he served as the aerospace firm’s vice president of government satellite systems.