Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 performs its first captive carry of LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)
KATOWICE, Poland, 9 October 2019 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Scientists and engineers from nearly a dozen Polish universities have teamed up with Poland-based satellite company SatRevolution and Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company Virgin Orbit to establish a new consortium to design and carry out the world’s first dedicated commercial small satellite mission to Mars. The parties established the consortium at a formal signing ceremony during the Impact Mobility’ 19 rEVolution conference in Katowice, Poland.
The consortium will jointly develop the first in a series of up to three Mars missions, with the initial launch expected as early as three years from now.
To date, only four organizations have successfully completed Mars missions. But as the twin MarCO spacecraft—designed and operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—proved in 2018, smaller and more affordable spacecraft can successfully contribute to the exploration of the Red Planet. 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 ...