WASHINGTON — Simply days after setting a launch date for its first launch from the UK, Virgin Orbit introduced Dec. 8 it was delaying that mission for weeks due to technical and regulatory points.
In an announcement supplied to SpaceNews, Virgin Orbit Chief Government Dan Hart stated the corporate’s “Begin Me Up” mission from Spaceport Cornwall in southwestern England, which had been set for as quickly as Dec. 14, can be delayed “for the approaching weeks.”
“With licenses nonetheless excellent for the launch itself and for the satellites inside the payload, extra technical work wanted to ascertain system well being and readiness, and a really restricted obtainable launch window of solely two days,” he stated, “we’ve decided that it’s prudent to retarget launch for the approaching weeks to permit ourselves and our stakeholders time to pave the way in which for full mission success.”
The corporate didn’t elaborate on the technical work wanted for the flight. The LauncherOne system, together with the rocket and its Boeing 747 service plane, have been on the spaceport since October, and the airplane carried out a flight Dec. 2 as a gown rehearsal of the mission profile for the launch.
Spaceport Cornwall, positioned at Cornwall Airport Newquay, received a spaceport license from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the U.K. launch regulator, Nov. 16. Nevertheless, Virgin Orbit has but to obtain a launch license from the CAA, and the U.S.-based firm may additionally require a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration.
In a Nov. 7 earnings name, Hart said the CAA licensing was taking longer than Virgin Orbit expected, which he stated was precipitated, at the very least partially, by being the primary firm to undergo the brand new U.Ok. launch licensing course of. “The excellent news is that we don’t see a showstopper or a giant concern we’re working,” he stated then. “However, it’s taking longer than we had anticipated and it’s taking a bit extra effort than we anticipated as properly.”
In a separate assertion, the CAA argued it was to not blame for the launch delay. “The U.Ok. house regulation course of will not be a barrier to a U.Ok. house launch,” stated Tim Johnson, director for house regulation on the CAA. “Virgin Orbit has stated in its assertion this morning that there are some technical points that can have to be resolved earlier than launch. These by no means relate to the timing of when a license shall be issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.”
The announcement of the delay got here lower than 48 hours after the corporate suggested reporters it was making ready for a launch as quickly as Dec. 14. That launch, although, may slip to Dec. 15 or 16 “or later,” a spokesperson for the corporate stated in a Dec. 6 e mail.
Virgin Orbit didn’t give an estimate of a brand new launch date for the mission past “the approaching weeks,” though one trade supply stated it was unlikely the launch would happen earlier than the tip of the 12 months. That will imply Virgin Orbit will finish the 12 months with simply two launches, after estimating initially of 2022 it could conduct as many as six.
The dearth of launch exercise and income from it has raised new questions concerning the firm’s funds. Virgin Orbit stated in its Nov. 7 earnings name that it ended the third quarter with $71 million of money readily available, however had raised $25 million from Virgin Group earlier within the month. The corporate reported an EBITDA lack of $42.9 million within the quarter.
Virgin Orbit stated Nov. 23 that whereas it had evaluated the potential of conducting a secondary providing to boost funds, it determined not to take action due to present market circumstances. It added that any later plans to boost capital “will rely upon future market circumstances.”
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