Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit 747 Cosmic Girl comes in for landing after 4-hour test run from Mojave airport on June 23, 2019. Virgin Orbit has signed a launch services agreement with UK-based company Junior Astronaut, the space launch company announced Friday, Jan. 8.

Virgin Orbit has signed a launch services agreement with UK-based company Junior Astronaut, the space launch company announced Friday, Jan. 8.

Junior Astronaut, which provides science, technology, engineering and math education programs for young space enthusiasts, will fly as a rideshare with its Nanonaut payload attached to the Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket.

It will remain onboard several missions, including missions from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, UK.

The Nanonaut payloads can be tracked and monitored from Earth using Junior Astronaut’s smartphone app, which also offers STEM-based activities like algebra tutorials.

“Knowledge is the most powerful tool for shaping a better future for everyone. The Junior Astronaut program is designed to inspire young people to push the limits of the unknown, to discover and innovate,” Junior Astronaut co-founder Miranda Ashcroft said in a statement. “The way to do this is education.

“Space is such an inspirational way to get people interested,” she added. “We want space to be accessible to everyone, and for the next generation to push boundaries and move all our societies forward. Space is how they will do this.”

Junior Astronaut, which was founded last year, will also soon offer space camps and a flight experiments package to take young people’s interest to the next stage.

Virgin Orbit launches for Junior Astronaut will begin in the middle of this year.

“With every LauncherOne mission, we want to chip away at the barriers preventing equitable access to space, so this partnership with Junior Astronaut is particularly meaningful to our team,” Stephen Eisele, Virgin Orbit’s vice president of business development, said in a statement. “These Nanonauts are all about getting students to recognize that they too can have a role in shaping the future of space, and we’re really excited to help bring them into the fold.

“These are the kinds of missions that will capture the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s space innovators,” she added.

Virgin Orbit is currently making the final preparations for Launch Demo 2, its second orbital test flight with the LauncherOne system. It is expected to occur in sometime this month.

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