Incredibly, Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport is to become a rocket launch site after Virgin Orbit announced plans to blast off satellites there from its Boeing 747s.
The company said on Tuesday it had signed an MOU with Australian infrastructure development company Wagner Corporation that will see it conduct a “demonstrator” launch in 2024. Permanent blast-offs are set to occur within three years.
The news comes on the day Virgin Orbit’s CEO, Dan Hart, talked exclusively about the business on the Australian Aviation Podcast. You can listen to the episode above.
Virgin Orbit is the successor to a project begun by Virgin Galactic, which will use modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft to launch satellites into space from the air.
Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport was chosen by Virgin Orbit due to its ideal geographical conditions for satellite launches. Many locations within Australia are appealing launch destinations due to the available orbits that can be reached from the continent.
Plans for a launch within the next 18 months are already underway, according to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
“My government is committed to working with both companies in their bid to certify Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport as a national spaceport for the orbital launch demonstration,” she said.
The Toowoomba Airport Aerospace and Defence Precinct is set to become a growing hub for the aviation and space industry, with Boeing announcing it would construct a UAV production facility at the airport.
Virgin Orbit’s project has been developing at lightning speed in the past few years, carrying out four successful launches of its plane-mounted rocket since the first launch in January 2021.
The company is scheduled for its first launch outside of the U.S in the near future, with a rocket set to blast off from a plane taking off from Spaceport Cornwall in the UK.
Speaking about the MOU with Wagner, Dan Hart — CEO of Virgin Orbit — said that the company was thrilled to bring the orbital launch system to Australia.
“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,” he said.
More to follow.