Virgin Orbit’s rocket tests

The Virgin Orbit team have got right back into action in 2018 at our rocket factory in Long Beach, California. 

They are testing every major part of the rocket, which will be attached to our 747 air launch platform, dropped, and once in orbit, it will travel around Earth at roughly 18000 mph delivering satellites.

Small satellites will vastly improve our access to data around the world and the market has reacted really positively to us a newcomer. We are really excited to announce today that Denmark-based commercial satellite developer GomSpace is our newest customer.  The company has purchased a launch for several nanosatellites onboard a LauncherOne rocket.

Along with signing new customers, the Virgin Orbit team has been testing rocket engines at our Mojave facility. Here’s a video of one of our most recent tests, a long-duration, full-thrust firing of our NewtonThree rocket engine.

The team also recently sent me this video of a few tests conducted late last week. These show a few practice runs of separating the payload fairing—basically, that’s the nose cone of the rocket, and the part that keeps the satellite safe and secure during the launch. 

The fairing of a rocket has a tough job. It’s got to be strong and sturdy enough to stand up to the forces of flight at many times the speed of sound, and yet it’s got to open gently and smoothly at precisely the moment you want it to.

This video shows a few different tests of the mechanisms that open the nose cone. There’s more testing to be done, but these test results look great—it’s so exciting to watch this video and imagine this same thing happening in outer space and shaking up the satellite launch industry.


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