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US Space Force launching first satellites on VOX Space’s LauncherOne in June

Photo: VOX Space

The United States Space Force, Space and Missile Systems Center has partnered with Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space to launch multiple defense department satellites on a commercial rideshare mission from the Mojave Air and Space Port, California.

The launch is currently scheduled for June 2021, according to the space force.

The mission, designated STP-27VPA, will launch four research and development satellites from multiple DoD agencies to demonstrate advanced space technologies. It is the first DoD mission to utilize VOX Space’s “LauncherOne” air-launch system, deploying from a modified 747 aircraft.

The air-launch is a technique in which a rocket is launched from under the wing of a jet aircraft, rather than from a traditional launch pad on the ground.

“We are excited to partner with VOX Space as part of our Rapid Agile Launch Initiative,” said Col. Tim Sejba, program executive officer for Space Development. “This first mission will demonstrate our ability to leverage commercially available launch solutions from a non-traditional location to deliver innovative technology to orbit.”

The DoD Space Test Program, managed by the Space and Missile Systems Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., procured this mission as part of its Rapid Agile Launch Initiative which leverages the Defense Innovation Unit’s Commercial Solutions Opening process to competitively and rapidly award DoD venture-class launch service agreements to non-traditional, commercial partners.

This is the first VOX Space RALI mission. The next mission, STP-27VPB, is expected to launch later this year.

Future small launch service contract awards will be managed by the SMC Launch Enterprise’s Small Launch and Targets division, which focuses on small, innovative launch solutions.

The DoD Space Test Program demonstrates emerging technologies in space to accelerate the development of war-winning space capabilities for the joint warfighter. STP provides mission design, spacecraft acquisition, integration, launch, and on-orbit operations support for DoD’s priority science and technology experiments. It also manages all DoD payloads on the International Space Station.