Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, has successfully completed a key drop test of its LauncherOne vehicle, the last major step in the development program of the company’s novel launch service.
Virgin Orbit has completed a steady progression of test flights with its “flying launch pad” Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne vehicle.
On this flight, Virgin Orbit released a LauncherOne rocket from Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747 that serves as the rocket’s carrier aircraft.
The primary purpose of the test was to monitor the few critical seconds just after release, to ensure the rocket and aircraft separate cleanly and to observe how the rocket freefalls through the air.
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said: “Today’s test was a monumental step forward for us. It’s the capstone to a thorough development program not just for a rocket, but for our carrier aircraft, our ground support equipment, and all of our flight procedures. I’m extremely proud of the team for getting us to this point, and for their spectacular performance today. I’ve told them to take a few hours now to celebrate — our first launch campaign begins in the morning.”