Credit: Virgin Orbit



Sky flying over Southern California, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, mated to a specially modified 747-400, made its first captive carry test flight.

Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company completed a test jaunt, proving that its carbon-fiber two-stage rocket can be paired with Cosmic Girl, the customized former passenger aircraft that serves as the company’s “flying launch pad.”

The company’s plans are to reach orbit in early 2019.

Credit: Virgin Galactic

Testing regime

The Sunday, Nov. 18 flight lasted 80 minutes in total, during which Virgin Orbit’s flight crew assessed the take-off, landing, and low-speed handling and performance of the integrated system.

This portion of the extensive testing regime will conclude with a drop test, during which a rocket will be released from Cosmic Girl — without igniting — generating critical data about Cosmic Girl’s and the rocket’s performance as it freefalls through the atmosphere.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

As part of that program, the company will conduct several more flights of its 747-400, some with a LauncherOne rocket attached and some without.

Test facility

The twosome departed from and returned to a Victorville, California test facility close both to Virgin Orbit’s Long Beach factory and to one of its operational launch sites, the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Credit: Virgin Orbit



Virgin Orbit intends to be a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites.

LauncherOne rockets are made in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from its carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations in order to serve each customer’s needs.



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