Credit: Virgin Orbit

The Long Beach Airport in California was the scene, for the first time, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket was integrated with its 747 carrier aircraft.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

LauncherOne is carried aloft by a customized 747-400 aircraft dubbed “Cosmic Girl,” modified explicitly for the purpose of serving as a flying launch site.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit’s system becomes the world’s “first concierge launch service,” said the company in an October 25 press statement.

Captive carry testing

Each mission of the system is to be tailored to a customer’s specific needs for launch location and orbital inclination—a boon to small satellite customers who want flexibility and responsiveness.

The rocket is outfitted and ready for flight on Cosmic Girl in the near future.

It will be used for an extensive test flight campaign that includes a number of “captive carry” flights—during which the rocket will remain attached to the aircraft, gathering terabytes of test data about aerodynamic performance, structural loading, and more.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

High-altitude launch

The company has already manufactured its first orbital rocket and has fully integrated rocket stages actively in testing on custom-built stands at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Richard Branson inspects modified 747 aircraft, Cosmic Girl.
Credit: Virgin Orbit

LauncherOne, at 70 feet long, weighs 57,000 pounds and is intended to toss satellites into Earth orbit, as small as a loaf of bread or as large as a household refrigerator.

 

 

Cosmic Girl will carry the rocket to an altitude of 30,000+feet before the rocket engages its thrusters, taking it to outer space.

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