Virgin Orbit Terminates First Orbital Launch Demonstration Using “Cosmic Girl”

On May 25th, Virgin Orbit attempted its first orbital Launch Demo. While the launch was highly celebrated, however, shortly after the launcher released, the mission was terminated. The crew made their way back to California.

Virgin Orbit
Cosmic Girl getting ready for takeoff. Photo: Virgin Orbit

The Launch Demo

The first launch demo occurred at 12:50 Pacific Time. The aircraft, Cosmic Girl, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port. This is about two hours north of Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing facility in Long Beach, California. Mojave Air and Space Port is known for its aircraft maintenance and storage. And, back in 2004, the site was also certified by the Federal Aviation Administration FAA for horizontal spacecraft launches.

The original launch was scheduled for May 23rd. However, since then, it was first postponed to May 24th. But, on Sunday, the team decided to push the launch one day due to a sensor that was acting up. Late on the 24th, however, Virgin Orbit confirmed that it was targeting a launch for the 25th during the day.

Here’s the shot of the aircraft taking off:

Despite a clean release, the mission was terminated shortly into the flight for unspecified reasons.

LauncherOne

LauncherOne is a 70-foot long rocket. Over 99% of the rocket is manufactured in the United States. The typical mass of satellites that Virgin Orbit delivers on each flight is between 650 and 1,000lbm. These satellites are deployed at an altitude of about 310 to 745 miles.

Excitement was in the air! Photo: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit

Back in 2012, eccentric billionaire Richard Branson announced plans to build a small satellite launcher at the Farnborough Air Show. However, it took a few years to finalize the design. In 2017, Virgin Orbit was established as a standalone company within the Virgin Group with the focus to be on developing small launch capabilities. Just last month, Virgin Orbit successfully completed a pull-up maneuver and drop test that paved the way for this launch.

The company has bold plans. After this launch demonstration, Virgin Orbit will start commercial operations. Some of its upcoming projects include NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS). This collaboration between NASA and several launch providers will provide small satellites access to Low Earth Orbit. Most of these payloads will be built and operated by universities across the United States. The company also has a launch agreement with the US Space Force.

Virgin Orbit is part of a broader movement to help open up new frontiers for humans. Small satellites will help improve our research capabilities and work to connect more people around the world.

Virgin Orbit
LauncherOne on the Virgin Orbit jet. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Cosmic Girl

Cosmic Girl is a very special Boeing 747. The aircraft is painted in a livery that’s very similar to Virgin Atlantic. Although, this 747 is capable of carrying rockets into the atmosphere. The jet, first delivered as G-VWOW to Virgin Atlantic, is about 19 years old and previously flew passengers before being upcycled for Virgin Orbit’s use.

Are you upset at today’s events? Have you flown on Cosmic Girl in the past? Let us know in the comments!

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