Europe comes to southern California to launch Royal Netherlands Air Force’s (RNLAF) first ever satellite from the Virgin Orbit launch company. Virgin Orbit will conduct this mission from Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
Virgin will launch the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s 6U CubeSat called BRIK-II. Designed and integrated by ISIS, BRIK-II will serve as a testbed for various communications experiments and demonstrate how nanosatellites can provide a meaningful contribution to military operations. The mission represents a significant step forward for the Dutch Ministry of Defense’s efforts to develop their first space capabilities, with a particular emphasis on responsive launch.
Currently scheduled to launch in this year, BRIK-II will fly as a rideshare payload on an upcoming LauncherOne mission. Virgin Orbit is also working via their subsidiary, VOX Space, to add payloads to this mission from the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program. With the U.S. government as a co-passenger, the mission represents an exciting opportunity for the Netherlands and the U.S. to jointly explore, develop and benefit from the next generation of space capabilities.
As part of the Netherlands’ broader plan to pursue a responsive space capability, RNLAF, Virgin Orbit and ISIS will pursue a demonstration of “late-load” integration, mating the payload to the rocket shortly prior to launch. This exercise will prove critical in pioneering the payload processing capabilities required to execute responsive launch. Following this exercise, Virgin Orbit and RNLAF will analyze the results and document them in a future whitepaper to be shared with other allied partners.
“Being able to launch our very first satellite is a major milestone for the RNLAF and the Dutch joint force as a whole. We are on a pathway to developing space capabilities as part of a yet to be released MoD Space Strategy. As set out in our latest Defense White Paper, we would like to develop our Joint ISR capabilities in space alongside our allies and partners,” said RNLAF commander Lt. Gen Dennis Luyt. “Being able to share this major milestone with Virgin Orbit’s development of responsive launch capability is second to none. We feel privileged to take this step and look forward to what the future has to offer.”
“We’re so honored to be supporting the RNLAF by providing this first launch, and we’re looking forward to seeing the Netherlands and the U.S. find mutual benefit from leveraging our uniquely flexible and mobile launch system. I can already foresee the day when we will take off from a runway on Dutch soil and deliver RNLAF satellites to space directly. LauncherOne’s unique air launch capability is filling a gap for government space missions — mobility and responsiveness are sorely needed to disincentivize aggression in space at a time when we rely more and more on a threatened space infrastructure,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.