Private space company Virgin Orbit is planning to launch its first commercial small satellites to Mars by 2022.
The company is one of several space entities that make up Virgin’s private space programme, which also includes space tourism company Virgin Galactic and spacecraft manufacturer The Spaceship Company.
Virgin Orbit facilitates the launch of private small satellites into Earth’s orbit.
In a statement issued yesterday, it announced a collaboration with Polish satellite company SatRevolution and a host of scientists and engineers from Polish technical universities to launch the first of three missions in 2022.
SatRevolution launched Poland’s first commercial nanosatellite in April 2019.
The consortium aims to launch several small satellites, known as cubesats, into orbit around Mars. The satellites could be used to take photographs of Mars’s surface and study its atmosphere.
“Preliminary work conducted by the consortium has shown that spacecraft as small as 50 kg or less can be used for a broad range of opportunities for scientific study, such as collecting imagery of Mars and its moon Phobos, analyzing the Martian atmosphere, or even such an ambitious endeavor as looking for underground reservoirs of water,” the statement reads.
The satellites will be carried on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, which is deployed mid-flight from a dedicated Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft.
Boeing also announced on Tuesday what it would be investing $20 million in Virgin Galactic, which intends to take paying customers on suborbital space trips.