(ORDO NEWS) — Virgin Orbit, an emerging satellite launch service provider, announced today that it has signed a launch services agreement with Japanese Earth Observation constellation operator Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space, Inc. (“iQPS”). The satellite is expected to enter the Virgin Orbit program by early 2023.
Selected for LauncherOne’s proven ability to provide direct access to multiple orbits, Virgin Orbit plans to launch the QPS-SAR-5 satellite into a dedicated medium-inclined orbit, allowing iQPS to expand its constellation coverage and re-pass rate.
By directly placing the QPS-SAR-5 satellite into the desired orbit according to the iQPS schedule, the flexibility of LauncherOne will allow iQPS to quickly bring QPS-SAR-5 into service and begin collecting information from areas of key interest to customers.
The iQPS QPS-SAR-5 satellite, which will be launched by Virgin Orbit, is expected to play a critical role in providing near real-time Earth observation through iQPS’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (“SAR”) constellation.
iQPS enables the construction of small, high performance SAR satellites by using a unique deployable antenna that is large but easy to fold and weighs only 10 kg.
It is also capable of penetrating clouds and collecting high-resolution images even in adverse weather conditions, allowing for frequent and important Earth observation missions.
iQPS plans to create a constellation of 36 satellites that will allow observation of certain points almost anywhere in the world in about 10 minutes or every 10 minutes to a fixed area for observation.
In addition, iQPS has been able to image at 70 cm resolution using the QPS-SAR-2 satellite, and subsequent satellites, including QPS-SAR-5, are expected to achieve even higher resolution.
Virgin Orbit demonstrated its ability to achieve unique orbital inclinations during the “Above the Clouds” mission in January 2022, during which the “LauncherOne” air launch system and “Cosmic Girl” launch vehicle placed seven of the customer’s satellites into a 500 km circular inclination orbit 45 degrees after takeoff from the Mojave Spaceport in Mojave,
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