As per Spaceflight, what will now follow will be a series of captive flight test, with the LauncherOne attached, to see how the airplane performs in this configuration.
When fully operational, the airplane will be carrying its rocket payload over the ocean and release the LauncherOne at around 35,000 feet for onward flight into space.
Virgin Orbit announced in July will be partnering with the Cornwall Airport Newquay in South West England to begin operations as soon as 2021. It is then when the company plans to conduct the first British satellite launch of the past 50 years.
LauncherOne, a two-stage orbital launch vehicle, is capable of carrying payloads of 300 kilograms (660 lb) into orbit. This capability makes it only suitable only for small satellites the likes of CubeSats. Even so, Virgin plans to sell each of the flights for $12 million per mission, essentially making it one of the best offers on the market.
Should the technology work and taking into account the fact that experts believe over 6,000 such small satellites are to be launched over the next ten years, Virgin Orbit might make a fortune real fast.
There is virtually no competition on this segment of the aerospace industry, aside for Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch. His company, however, appears to be lagging behind that of Branson, despite claims of planning to introduce the Pegasus rocket in 2020.