Virgin Orbit reaches space for the first time with its LauncherOne rocket

 

 

 

 


 

 

It was a much anticipated orbit! After a first failure in May 2020, Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket successfully reached low Earth orbit on its second flight on January 17, 2021.

The success of this mission validates the original formula adopted by Virgin Orbit.

 

 

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A successful mission in every way


Early afternoon US West Coast Time on January 17, the Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl took off from the spaceport in Mojave, Calif., Carrying the small LauncherOne rocket under its left wing. An hour after the plane took off, the rocket separated from Cosmic Girl, and the NewtonThree engine on its first stage successfully engaged, propelling LauncherOne into space. After three minutes of operation, the first-stage motor gave way to the second-stage NewtonFour motor, which operated for almost six minutes.

At an altitude of approximately 500 km, LauncherOne's payload deployed. Unlike the May 2020 flight, which ended in failure just seconds after the Cosmic Girl operated deployment, this second LauncherOne flight did not carry a test ballast, but actual satellites. We understand all the better what was at stake for Virgin Orbit during this flight!

In total, LauncherOne has deployed around ten CubeSats, standardized nanosatellites that are expected to represent a significant share of the light launch vehicle market, which Virgin Orbit hopes to dominate in the years to come. Launched under the auspices of NASA, these ten nano-satellites were designed by eight different universities and an engineering center of the US space agency. They take with them several scientific experiments and various technological demonstrators.

 


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The huge ambition of Virgin Orbit


Originally, LauncherOne was a project of another subsidiary of the Virgin group, well known to Clubic readers: Virgin Galactic. While the latter is working to develop a safe and economical way to take tourists on suborbital flights to the borders of space, the company announced in 2012 its intention to develop a small orbital launcher.

LauncherOne was then to be dropped from a high altitude from a WhiteKnight Two aircraft, a craft custom designed for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two manned spacecraft. Finally, in 2017, the manned program and the orbital program split into two separate companies.

Virgin Orbit signs several contracts with US government agencies (including NASA) and private customers, and a former Boeing 747 from the Virgin Atlantic airline becomes the rocket's new carrier plane.

For the group, the ambitions of Virgin Orbit - and of its commercial subsidiary VOX Space - are clear: to recover a significant share of the light launch vehicle market, in particular from government customers. To do this, Virgin Orbit relies on the extraordinary flexibility offered by its unique architecture.

 

 

Source : Space News

 

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