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Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, today [May 12, 2021] announced it has been selected by UK-based Arqit Limited, a leader in quantum encryption technology, to conduct two launches to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) beginning in 2023.

Arqit has pioneered a unique quantum encryption technology, QuantumCloud™, which makes the communications links of any networked device secure against current and future forms of hacking — even an attack from a quantum computer. Currently, Arqit’s system delivers an unlimited number of encryption keys using terrestrial communications systems, but by incorporating satellites, Arqit can further enhance the system.

Arqit’s satellites will use a new quantum protocol that will create a backbone of secure keys within the data centers of Arqit’s customers all over the world, and a quantum safe boundary protecting those data centers.

Virgin Orbit will provide launch services for the two satellites via its LauncherOne system. The companies are discussing a further set of launches after the initial program, as Arqit seeks to address its growing market of government customers. This could potentially include future launches from Spaceport Cornwall out of Newquay, UK, where Virgin Orbit will commence operations beginning in 2022, providing the UK with its first in-country launch capability.

The Arqit team selected Virgin Orbit as the launch provider in part because of the operational flexibility afforded by air launch, enabling the launch of Arqit satellites on their schedule with shorter call-up times, direct inject into unique orbits, and launch from different spaceports depending on customer requirements.

Deepening the relationship between the two companies, Virgin Orbit also recently announced it will contribute $5 million to Arqit’s Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE) fundraising round, which forms part of Arqit’s agreement to combine with Centricus Acquisition Corp. and list on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

David Williams, Founder and Chairman of Arqit, said: “After four years of innovation in stealth mode by a world-leading team of scientists and engineers, we are ready to go to market. Our technology is important, and we need to take it to hyperscale as quickly as possible, because the problems we solve are problems for everyone. I am pleased to announce our launch partnership with Virgin Orbit, as it will enable us to transform our current terrestrial solution and provide QuantumCloud™ to our customers and their data centers around the world, securely and in a cost-effective way.”

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said: “The Virgin Group has been a long-term investor in space because of the transformational impact it will have on our world. At Virgin Orbit, we look for innovative companies to work with, and we are pleased to be Arqit’s satellite launch partner and to invest in its development. Arqit’s satellites will enable the company to further distribute its cutting-edge quantum encryption technology, which will drive and protect development across so many key sectors.”


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