Virgin Orbit Launches Seven Satellites Into Space on a Modified Carrier Plane

Today, June 30th, Virgin Orbit's carrier plane Cosmic Girl took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 09:54 a.m. EDT. An hour later, air-launched rockets carried seven satellites from three different countries to orbit on Virgin's first commercial mission.
Virgin Orbit launched seven satellites for three different countries from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on June 30th 6 photos
Photo: Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl and LauncherOneVirgin Orbit Cosmic Girl and LauncherOneVirgin Orbit Cosmic Girl and LauncherOneVirgin Orbit Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne rocketVirgin Orbit Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne
This will be the third flight for Virgin Orbit. Its first flight, which took place in 2020, did not reach space due to a ruptured fuel line in LauncherOne's first-stage engine that happened shortly after it was dropped from the airplane. This year, a second orbital launch demonstration was conducted, and it proved to be a success. Virgin Orbit delivered 10 tiny CubeSats into orbit.

Today's mission is called "Tubular Bells: Part One" and marks the next big step in Virgin Orbit's commercial service. It's the first mission of this kind for the company where satellites from different countries are carried on a wing of a modified 747-400 carrier aircraft and later sent to space on a 70-foot-long (21 meters) LauncherOne rocket.

Once at the drop site, the pilots fly Cosmic Girl in a sort of a loop as they wait for the clear call. After the autosequence is initiated, LauncherOne's computers take full control over the system prior to the drop. At the 10:47 a.m. EDT mark, LauncherOne was released from Cosmic Girl at an altitude of 50 miles (80 km).

The rocket ignited its first-stage engine and blasted off into orbit with payloads for three customers: the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program, Polish satellite firm SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

About 11 minutes in, the rocket reached Earth’s orbit and deployed the satellites into their target orbits. You can watch Virgin Orbit's mission live on its Youtube channel. The livestream already started at 8:30 EDT. In case you missed it, you can rewatch it after it ends as well!

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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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