The smallsat launcher owned by Richard Branson announced it will be joining the trend of other space companies and merging with a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). This also comes with some new future plans for Virgin Orbit like turning LauncherOne into a reusable rocket and developing a new LauncherTwo vehicle.
Virgin Orbit to become publicly traded
Monday, Virgin Orbit announced they will merge with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ. This means that sometime later this year Virgin Orbit will join the likes of other space companies to become publically tradable.
This merger will bring in about $420 million dollars to the company. This money will be divided up between the development of new technologies and business growth. This money will cover those programs until the company says it will become profitable in 2024.
LauncherOne to receive improvement and reusability upgrades
Alongside an increase in funding for the company, the announcement also showed that Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket will receive some upgrades. First, in order to launch to interplanetary destinations, a third stage will be developed and improvements to the first and second stage engines will have to be made. A shocking addition will be what looks like 4 solid rocket boosters on the first stage.
The second upgrade coming to LauncherOne is in reusability. Yup, another company is joining the train to turn their expendable rockets into reusable ones. It seems they will be going with a similar method as Rocket Lab. This means the addition of parachutes to the first stage that will let the rocket splash down into the ocean.
Virgin Orbit looking at a LauncherTwo
One of the most exciting but vague announcements was the development of a LauncherTwo vehicle. From the image, it looks to be a much larger version of LauncherOne with the addition of a large horizontal wing. The biggest change is it will be attached to the top of the carrier aircraft rather than under one of its wings. Other than the image, no other information has been released about the vehicle.
Space Explored’s Take
It’s exciting to see more companies become publicly traded. Opening up the industry to more investment outside of government and private funds. This also pushes the industry to be more innovative, stopping companies from staying stagnant.
Virgin Orbit’s addition of a new launch vehicle and the upgrades to make their existing rockets reusable is also very exciting. Reusability is the future of the industry and one by one more companies are catching on and moving in that direction.
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