LauncherOne? Meet Cosmic Girl. The brilliant Virgin Orbit team have integrated our LauncherOne rocket with Cosmic Girl, our modified 747, for the very first time. These photos show the size of the rocket we attached to our 747. It will carry LauncherOne to more than 30,000 feet before the rocket engages its thrusters and flies into orbit early next year - travelling at 17,500mph, dropping off satellites and connecting the world.
The team were carrying out the integration check of the rocket with Cosmic Girl to verify mechanical, electrical, software, and dynamics all work together for the first time. All of this happened at Long Beach airport. We wouldn’t usually mate the rocket to the plane here, but it made sense to do so for this first time. And hopefully, it’s a nice treat for our neighbours! It’s an incredibly exciting moment for us, as Virgin Orbit’s first test flights move ever closer.
To add some context, here’s a few quick facts about LauncherOne. At 70 feet, it is twice the length of a London bus and will travel at more than 20 times the speed of sound. The rocket weighs 57,000 pounds, which is the equivalent to 25 small family cars. Launcher One’s payload will carry satellites that could be as small as a loaf of bread and as large as a household fridge. Cosmic Girl is the first 747 in history that has been converted to launch rockets. This means it can fly thousands of miles in any direction at 24 hours’ notice to deliver to the right orbit. Currently, people have to wait between 18 and 24 months for manufacturing and a ground launch.
A week earlier, I got to visit the team at our home in Long Beach and see the progress taking place first-hand. I also got to take a sneak peek inside Cosmic Girl too. It was amazing seeing the modified 747 looking so different from her days as part of our Virgin Atlantic fleet. It’s the ultimate upcycling!
CEO Dan Hart introduced me to lots of the team and I even got to surprise quite a few new employees on their first day. Welcome! Here’s an even bigger shot of the Virgin Orbit family, standing in front of the LauncherOne rocket before we introduced it to Cosmic Girl.
It never gets old walking around the factory, chatting to fascinating people as they work on rockets. The mission of Virgin Orbit, making small satellites more frequent, sustainable, efficient and affordable, is so exciting. Satellites are already connecting us to our fellow humans, helping us understand our home planet, keeping us safe and expand the limits of human knowledge. The innovations this team are working towards will bring people even closer together and help communities to thrive all around the world.
We’ve got lots of exciting milestones to strive towards in the coming months, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted. Follow Virgin Orbit on social for all of the latest.