Main Engine Cut Off

Virgin Orbit Gets Funding from UK Space Agency, Maybe Local Government

Jeff Foust, for SpaceNews:

The U.K. Space Agency announced Nov. 5 that it will provide £7.35 million ($9.5 million) to Virgin Orbit U.K. Ltd., the U.K. branch of Virgin Orbit, for launch support equipment and mission planning activities at Cornwall Airport Newquay, also known as Spaceport Cornwall, intended to support flights by Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne air-launch system.

The space agency funding is part of a broader funding package of nearly £20 million to allow Virgin Orbit to operate from the airport in southwestern England. The local government in Cornwall is slated to vote later this month on providing £10 million for the effort, while Virgin Orbit will contribute £2.5 million.

Virgin Orbit continues the trend of Virgin space companies convincing local governments to pay for its spaceports. But the Virgin Orbit funding is a lot more sensible than the Virgin Galactic funding.

I think I’m too quick to shrug off the “domestic launch capability on demand” aspect of Virgin Orbit. That’s a big selling point for countries with no up-and-running spaceport, and even more so for countries with geography that isn’t conducive to the existence of one at all.