Branson’s Virgin Orbit tries to reach space by launching a rocket in midair

Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit aims to reach space for the first time on Sunday by launching a rocket from mid-air, a key attempt after stopping the rocket’s first test launch last year. The Long Beach, California-based company loaded its LauncherOne rocket with fuel under clear skies Sunday morning at Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California before aiming to take off at 10:50 PT under the wing of a modified Boeing Co 747 nicknamed Cosmic Girl.

The rocket, a 70-foot launcher tailored to send small satellites into orbit, will be released once its CosmicGirl transport ship reaches a maximum altitude of about 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It will fire up its single engine to ascend out of Earth’s atmosphere, attempting to send 10 small satellites into orbit for NASA. For Virgin Orbit, the Launch Demo 2 mission is intended to “further enhance our knowledge and demonstrate all the capabilities of LauncherOne,” the company wrote on Twitter Sunday.

“It is important to note that, as the mission name suggests, this is still a test,” he added. The launch test window began Sunday at 10:00 PT (06:00 GMT) and runs until 14:00 PT. The company has additional opportunities for testing throughout January.

Virgin executives say high-altitude launches allow satellites to be positioned in their intended orbit more efficiently and also minimize time-related cancellations compared to vertically launched rockets. from a ground base. Competition is fierce between Virgin Orbit, Firefly, and the US and New Zealand company Rocket Lab, which are designing smaller or non-traditional systems to inject smaller satellites into orbit and meet growing demand.

LauncherOne’s first attempt to reach space early last year was halted seconds after it was released from his transport plane. The rocket fired its NewtonThree engine for a few seconds, but stopped in midair due to a broken propellant line, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in July. The company then said it was able to collect crucial test data during the short flight.

Virgin Orbit has lagged behind Rocket Lab, which has already completed about 17 orbital launches, although Virgin Orbit says its rocket can carry around twice the weight. VOX Space LLC, a subsidiary of Virgin Orbit’s government services, is selling launches using the system to the US military, with a first mission scheduled for October with a US Space Force $ 35 million contract for three missions.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

News Highlights:

  • The Long Beach, California-based company loaded its LauncherOne rocket with fuel under clear skies Sunday morning at Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California before aiming to take off at 10:50 PT under the wing of a modified Boeing Co 747 nicknamed Cosmic Girl. The rocket, a 70-foot launcher tailored to send small satellites into orbit, will be released once its CosmicGirl transport ship reaches a maximum altitude of about 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean.
  • Branson’s Virgin Orbit tries to reach space by launching a rocket in midair