Virgin Orbit‘s LauncherOne was certainly ready to fly into space once again — and the company’s Tubular Bells: Part One mission has successfully launched from Cosmic Girl.
At 0950 hours, PST, the company’s Cosmic Girl carrier plane — a Boeing 747 that has been modified — took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California with the 70 foot in length LauncherOne rocket securely affixed to the underside of the jet’s left wing.
The drop point for LauncherOne was 50 miles to the south of the Channel Islands in the Pacific Ocean and this action was auspiciously concluded at an altitude of approximately 300k feet. The rocket can handle payloads of approximately 1,100 pounds and deliver them to their orbits. Planned are three additional test flights.
There are three customer payloads for this seven smallsat delivery mission — the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), SatRevolution and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. All entrusted LauncherOne to uplift their smallsat spacecraft into orbit and demonstrated the unique advantages of air launch to make space more accessible for customers from all corners of the map.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force payload is a defense satellite, the first such spacecraft for that nation. Additionally, two EO smallsats for SatRevolution were included in this mission, with the expectation of certainly more smallsats to be driven to orbit, given that the firm intends to build out a 14 smallsat constellation. The DoD’s Rapid Launch Initiative placed a cubesat with Virgin Orbit for launch as a demo to measure smallsat flexibility and the ability to launch smallsats when a short timeframe is demanded for delivery to orbit of sensitive, space-based tech.
The company’s readiness review is complete and their LauncherOne launch window is set for June 30 from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m., PDT, and the Tubular Bells: Part One mission is currently GO for launch.
Pre-launch ground operations are well underway at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Earlier this week, Virgin Orbit mated the payload fairing to the rocket (all the while it was attached to Cosmic Girl‘s wing), using one of the firm’s customized trailers, which is a process that will be replicated to support responsive launch campaigns at sites around the world — Cornwall, UK; Guam, US; and Oita, Japan, just to name a few.
Virgin Orbit also announced their agreement with SatRevolution to expand the strategic partnership and launch their “constellation of constellations.” In addition to these future dedicated and rideshare launches, Virgin Orbit and SatRevolution will also seek new opportunities for collaboration, such as the development of integrated mission services and other activities aimed at cultivating Poland’s rapidly growing space industry.
Watch the action in real-time by tuning into this mission’s livestream, available via YouYube. Similar to Launch Demo 2, the company will also share mission milestone updates as they happen on Twitter (@VirginOrbit).
See you tomorrow for Tubular Bells: Part One!