Virgin Orbit's Wild Space Launch

Issue 54

01.18.21 - Virgin Orbit recently launched 70-foot rocket into space that was attached beneath the wing of a retrofitted Boeing 747. The rocket detached from the plane in midair and fired itself into the Earth's orbit on this weekend — marking the first successful launch for the California-based rocket startup Virgin Orbit.

Virgin Orbit's retrofitted 747, which they endearingly nicknamed Cosmic Girl, took off from 10:30 am PT with the rocket, which they named LauncherOne, strapped beneath the plane's left wing. Cosmic Girl then flew out well over the Pacific Ocean before the rocket was released and powered up its motor to launch it more than 17,000 miles per hour.

"In both a literal and figurative sense, this is miles beyond how far we reached in our first Launch Demo," the company stated recently

The rocket was carrying a group of tiny satellites for NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (or ELaNa program) which would allow high school and college students to design and assemble small satellites that NASA then has launched into space. These nine small satellites that Virgin Orbit flew on Sunday contained equipment for academic and educational purposes, including temperature-monitoring satellite from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a satellite that will study how tiny particles collide in space from the University of Central Florida, and an experimental radiation-detection satellite from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

About four hours after takeoff on Saturday, Virgin Orbit confirmed that all the satellites were "successfully deployed into our target orbit."

Source: Wall Street Journal