Virgin Orbit, a business in Richard Branson's Virgin Group, has announced it is joining the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In consultation with Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), the space access company said it has developed a "bridge" ventilator that can be mass produced. 

The bridge ventilator is meant for more moderate cases where a patient is out of intensive care and has already partially recovered. This would free up the more complex -- and in high demand -- units needed for more critically ill patients. 

College professor with complex formulas surrounding him

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Team of experts

The BVC is a team led by the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), put together to address the shortage of supplies in the current crisis. It consists of experts in the fields of medicine and medical devices, aiming to bring simple ventilators to where there is a shortage of supply. 

Virgin Orbit normally focuses on building equipment for space launch like satellites meant to "enhance life on earth." It said it has resources such as designers, programmers and fabricators that are eager to help address the current crisis. It contacted California Governor Gavin Newsom last week, and was connected with the BVC. 

Virgin Orbit intends to start production at its Long Beach, California manufacturing facility in early April, pending Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. The goal is to get the bridge ventilators to frontline healthcare workers and first responders as soon as possible. Virgin Orbit CEO, Dan Hart, commented that he's "never seen ideas moving quicker from design to prototype."