Virgin Orbit closer to taking small satellites to space

Hugely proud of all the Virgin Orbit team, who have completed a major part of our testing program and are now within arm’s reach of our first orbital flight test.

Virgin Orbit, our satellite launch business, recently lit up the Mojave test site with a final full duration, full scale, full thrust test firing of LauncherOne’s main stage. That’s more than three minutes of controlled rocket thrust, using all of the same equipment we’ll use on our actual flights to orbit later this year.

The same day that the team were running a data review of the stage hotfire, other teammates were running a flight test in Mojave. We really are firing on all cylinders, so to speak. Many different key milestones are converging as we get closer to launch, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Cosmic Girl

Another major announcement from the team is a partnership with multiple NASA centres to develop and test a uniquely manufactured rocket part – what wonderful news.

The flight test was our modified 747 Cosmic Girl’s first flight with a heavy rocket loaded onboard. There have been a series of flight tests with an empty rocket, but for the first time, the team took flight after loading the rocket tosimulate its weight when fully fuelled.

This video shows Cosmic Girl lifting off with the fully loaded rocket attached. It’s an incredible sight seeing her soar.

The successes of the recent main stage hotfire signals the end of a major part of our program. Simply put, there are no “firsts” remaining for us on the ground. Every single part of the system — whether that’s hardware, software, or processes — has now been demonstrated on our test stands.

Now, all that stands between us and our space shot is final assembly of our first orbital rocket and some key testing in the air with Cosmic Girl, building on the great flights we’ve already completed.

Cosmic Girl flying

This isn’t the end of the road, but we’re proud to have completed some of the most difficult steps along the way.

It won’t be long until Virgin Orbit is taking small satellites into orbit, ushering in a new era of space capabilities to the benefit of people around the globe. 

Read more about why I’m so excited for the small satellite revolution.

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