Virgin Orbit has announced a new partnership with Japan’s Oita Prefecture to host its first Asian launch site at Oita Airport, with the support of ANA Holdings Inc. and the Space Port Japan Association. The first launch from Oita is targeted to take place in 2022, using LauncherOne, Virgin Orbit’s small satellite launch system.
To facilitate this, Virgin Orbit and Oita Prefecture have agreed to commence a joint technical study to facilitate development of the future spaceport.
In addition to this, Virgin Orbit has three launch sites at Florida, the Mojave Desert, and Guam, and has also signed an agreement with the UK Space Agency to develop a spaceport at Cornwall.
“We are eager to host the first horizontal takeoff and landing spaceport in Japan. We are also honored to be able to collaborate with brave technology companies solving global-level problems through their small satellites,” said Katsusada Hirose, Governor for the Oita Prefectural Government. “We hope to foster a cluster of space industry in our prefecture, starting with our collaboration with Virgin Orbit.”
“As the global use of smaller satellites and related launch activities are expected to ramp up rapidly in the coming years, a flexible domestic launch capability becomes a crucial factor. It’s a key element in ensuring the availability and responsiveness of launch — a core enabler for the growing space economy,” said Dan Hart, CEO for Virgin Orbit. “As Japan looks to establish a regional launch hub for Asia, we’re very excited to work alongside Oita to enable launch operations for space ventures, stimulate the local economy, and facilitate the growth of Japan’s broader space ecosystem.”