Sir Richard Branson’s Nasdaq listed rocket launch company, Virgin Orbit, is setting up shop in Toowoomba, 100km west of Brisbane, taking up an offer to establish its third global launch site from local entrepreneurs the Wagner brothers.
Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ASX-listed Wagner Corporation (ASX: WGN), which operates the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, with the goal of providing satellite launch services from the airport using the space company’s LauncherOne System.
Established five years ago by Branson, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rockets are air-launched from a modified 747-400 carrier aircraft. The rockets are carried beneath the plane and launched into space from high altitude.
Operations began last year and the Toowoomba launch project could be up and running by 2024.
It comes as Queensland rocket company Gilmour Space prepares to begin launches from its Bowen Orbital Spaceport in north Queensland early next year.
The Virgin Orbit deal will Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport earmarked to become a manufacturing hub for the LauncherOne rockets, which are currently manufactured in California and turn the area into a space industry innovation centre.
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said it won’t be long before the company is sending satellites to space from Queensland.
We’re thrilled to be working alongside Wagner Corporation, one of the region’s most successful privately-owned companies, to bring the first national orbital launch to Australia,” he said.
“Combining their deep knowledge of infrastructure development and affinity for aerospace with our proven, responsive LauncherOne system, we have all the ingredients to bring spaceflight to Queensland.”
Wagner Corporation Chairman John Wagner said the collaboration was a significant boost for the region and company’s vision for the airport and business park.
“Virgin Orbit will join Boeing and other international companies as part of Wellcamp’s new world-class, Aerospace and Defence Precinct and Campus, with Stage 1 due for completion by the end of 2024,” he said.
“Attracting global companies such as Virgin Orbit is recognition of the strategic advantages that Wellcamp Airport and the Aerospace and Defence Precinct offers, and we are looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship.”