Virgin Orbit have completed a main stage hotfire test. Last week saw the test of what could have been the most challenging, important, successful test in the history of their LauncherOne programme.
Orbit lit up their Mojave site with the final full thrust, full duration, full scale, test-flight of LauncherOne’s main stage, which used the same equipment that’ll be used on their actual flights to orbit later in the year.
The test was a complex one, and the fact it was successful was a big deal for Virgin Orbit. The hotfire signals the end of the major part of the programme, and, on the ground at least, there are no more “firsts” remaining. Every single part of the system — whether that’s hardware, software, or processes — has now been demonstrated on Orbit’s test stands.
All that stands between Orbit on their shot at space is the final assembly of their first orbital rocket and some key testing in the air with Cosmic Girl. This will build on the flights they’ve already completed using a fully integrated-but-empty rocket. This rocket has now been loaded with fluid to simulate its weight when fully fueled, and has already successfully flown on Cosmic Girl once this month.
And it wasn’t the only test being run in Mojave that day. The same day as the test flight saw other Orbit teammates in Long Beach running a comprehensive data review of stage hotfire, with multiple streams of key milestones converging as Orbit get closer to their launch.
Virgin Orbit are within arms reach of their first orbital test flight, making it a super exciting time for all involved.