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Virgin Orbit to launch hyperspectral constellation for QinetiQ, HyperSat

(21 April 2021 - Virgin Orbit) Virgin Orbit today announced it has been selected by defense and security company QinetiQ and geospatial analytics company HyperSat to launch a series of six hyperspectral satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

To develop the satellites, HyperSat has awarded a design-phase contract to QinetiQ to lead a team of engineering and technology organizations which includes Redwire, Millennium Engineering and Integration, and Brandywine Photonics. Virgin Orbit will provide launch services for each satellite via its LauncherOne system.

The team selected Virgin Orbit as the launch provider in part because of the unparalleled agility, mobility, and responsiveness afforded by air-launch, which allows for shorter call-up times and more flexible scheduling for customers, as well as direct injection into precise target orbits. In addition to the value for commercial customers, this capability enables a major strategic advantage to government customers seeking to maintain unencumbered overhead intelligence.

This constellation is built around a hyperspectral imaging capability, the ability to capture and process an image at wavelengths across the whole reflective spectrum from visible light to longwave infrared, pixel by pixel. This enables the identification of items in an image with superb precision.

The first satellite will launch no earlier than 2023, and will be able to image 500 spectral bands from the visible to shortwave infrared regions, with a ground sample distance of 6m. Subsequent satellites will offer longwave infrared images and more capability in the shortwave infrared region. The high spatial and spectrum pixel resolution available from its sensor payload will allow the satellites to be used not only in defense and security applications, but also for other commercial sectors, such as agriculture and insurance, where highly accurate Earth observation images can inform critical decisions.

“QinetiQ’s expertise in hyperspectral systems development and data analytics is helping to provide cutting edge technology for both public and commercial organizations; bringing space-based technology to defense and security customers while also supporting the remote sensing needs of civil, environmental and commercial industries,” said Mary Williams, President of QinetiQ.

“Virgin Orbit is making good on our promise to unleash the small satellite revolution,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “QinetiQ’s team embodies the bold energy of this new era of space. It’s extremely exciting to join with our partners to deploy new capabilities and new ideas that will shape our world.”

About Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are air-launched from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft — allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs.

About QinetiQ

QinetiQ Inc. is a leading defense and security company in the U.S. providing mission-led innovation at pace. We support our customers worldwide with mission-critical solutions to create, test and use the latest technologies to deliver real world advantage. QinetiQ Inc. operates as the U.S. arm of QinetiQ Group PLC (QQ.LSE), a global integrated defense and security company focused on mission-led innovation for defense, security and civil customers around the world. QinetiQ’s U.S. employees are based predominantly in Virginia and Massachusetts and operate under a Special Security Agreement (SSA) with the U.S. Defense Counterintelligence & Security Agency (DCSA). We are creating new ways of protecting what matters most; testing technologies, systems, and processes to make sure they work as expected; and enabling customers to deploy new and enhanced-existing capabilities with the assurance they will deliver the outcomes required.

About Hypersat

Hypersat LLC is a geospatial analytics company. Our satellites will deliver industry leading hyperspectral resolution and capabilities for both commercial and defense users.