The first presentation took place in May 2020 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Virgin Orbit has announced that the take-off, flight and landing of the Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl and the launch of the rocket suspended from the plane were successful. Unfortunately, her flight was unsuccessful. The explosion occurred shortly after separation and starting the engine. It was a partial success for the company and its employees. The team had to work on their technology a little more.
The company has already announced another test, which is to take place on January 10. The launch windows will appear on January 17, 24 and 31. The plan assumes that during the next flight of the rocket, CubeSat microsatellites with experiments belonging to the American Space Agency will be on board. It is only a matter of time before the space industry will acquire a new and cheap form of carrying charges into the Earth's orbit.
"Our team conducted its pre-take-off and flight operations with incredible skill," said Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit. “Test flights are for obtaining data, and now we have a treasure trove of data. We have achieved many goals that we set for ourselves, although not as much as we would like. Nevertheless, we made a big step today. Our engineers are already reviewing the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will review, adjust and start preparing for the next test which is coming soon. "
The LauncherOne rocket is powered by two engines, a single NewtonThree on the first stage and a single NewtonFour on the second stage. Both engines run on liquid oxygen and kerosene (RP-1). Modern rockets will be able to carry small payloads of up to 225 kilograms into space, but this is enough to orbit, for example, a constellation of small satellites.
Virgin Orbit plans its first commercial missions in the first quarter of this year. The company foresees great interest in this way of carrying cargo into space. There may be up to 12 launches by the end of the year, and as many as 24 in 2022. The acceleration of Richard Branson's engineering team should come as no surprise, as competition is growing in the world of the private sector of the space industry.
The Stratolaunch company, which is working on the project of the world's largest plane with the same name, has similar plans. The machine is built from two modified Boeing 747 fuselages and its task will be to carry and launch rockets with loads into Earth's orbit. The company also plans to build a hypersonic vehicle called the Talon-A. With its help, it will be able to carry out projects related to the transport of goods between global metropolises.