Virgin Orbit on Wednesday had its first successful commercial mission, it’s the first time the company is launching satellites into space.
Southern California was the venue for the launch, Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 departed the Mojave Air and Space Port. At exactly 9:53 AM ET, the aircraft took off with seven satellites from three different countries.
The commercial mission had Netherland’s first military satellite two out of 14 imaging satellites for SatRevolution constellation and four tiny satellites from a defense Department test program were on board the aircraft.
The rockets reached orbit at 10:58 AM and also released their satellites around 11:27 AM. Ending the 2 hours live-streamed event.
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Virgin Galactic confirmed the flight was successful via tweet “Preliminary analysis of the data tells us we perfectly hit our target orbit and payloads are deploying”.
This was the company’s third flight since May 2020, after its initial first flight attempt failed to reach orbit: because of a tampered fuel line causing the rocket to shut down afterward immediately. Virgin Orbit’s second attempt in January, when carrying satellites for the first time actually was successful. The company’s CEO Dan Hart mentioned that Virgin Orbit signed “quite a few” launch deals after its January test flight.
This positions Virgin Orbit as a frontier commercial satellite flight operator, joining the ranks of Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX.
Virgin Orbit’s style of launching its rockets is vastly different from others, it flies a modified Boeing 474 attached with rockets. These rockets get launched after the plane has reached a high altitude, then the rockets are launched further into orbit. Then they deplore their satellites.
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