Virgin Orbit plans to send cubesats to Mars as early as 2022 – Engadget

Virgin Orbitis a spinoffof Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and is dedicated to low-cost smallsat projects. This new Virgin Orbit endeavor was reportedly inspired by NASA’s recentInSight mission, which successfully sent two cubesats to Mars. Now, the company believes it can send its own similar spacecraft (as light as 110 pounds) into deep space using its LauncherOne rocket.

The potential for small satellites stretches far beyond LEO – and whoever said Virgin’s orbit was limited to the Earth?

We’re above and beyond excited to announce our first mission to the Red Planet.

— Virgin Orbit (@Virgin_Orbit)October 9, 2019

Once the cubesats reach the planet, they may take photos, study the atmosphere or look for water. Eventually, Virgin Orbit may examine the moons of Mars, Venus and “maybe a couple of the asteroids in the asteroid belt,” Will Pomerantz, the vice president of special projects at Virgin Orbit, toldThe Verge.

Virgin Orbit will have to complete its LauncherOne rocket first. The 70-foot-long rocket will be dropped from Virgin Orbit’sBoeing 747 carrier, dubbed “Cosmic Girl.” The rocket will then blast off from mid-air. LauncherOne has completed‘captive carry’anddrop tests, but it has yet to take its first test flight. The success of these Mars-based cubesat missions will likely depend on LauncherOne.

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