Virgin Orbit To Launch Satellites For NASA With Second Launch Demo This Year

Virgin Orbit is targeting a second launch demo this year. Alongside the second launch demo test flight, eleven satellites for NASA will be launched to support their CubeSat Initiative. While there is no set date yet for when the launch will occur, the Virgin Orbit team is planning a launch before the end of the year.

Virgin Orbit
A second launch demo will hopefully occur by the end of 2020. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Moving to a second launch

A second launch for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket is targeted to happen before the end of the year. There is no specific date yet, however. The plan is for Cosmic Girl, Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 that carries the rocket, to take off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California, and conduct a launch that will also carry 11 small satellites for the American space agency, NASA.

Virgin Orbit is a California-based company that is working on expanding humankind’s frontiers into outer space. LauncherOne is Virgin Orbit’s dedicated launch service for small satellites. The company’s team has been hard at work, moving towards an orbital launch. At the end of May, Virgin Orbit ran its first launch demo. However, that was terminated due to an anomaly during the launch.

Cosmic Girl Mojave
The first launch saw Cosmic Girl takeoff from Mojave with LauncherOne attached. Photo: Virgin Orbit

What happened in the first launch?

At the end of May, Virgin Orbit ran its first launch demo using Cosmic Girl and its LauncherOne rocket. After being delayed for a couple of days, it was an exciting time for air and space enthusiasts alike. Cosmic Girl, an ex-Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747, took off smoothly and made its way over to the Pacific for the release of LauncherOne. However, shortly after the rocket was released from the aircraft, the team terminated the launch. Cosmic Girl and the flight crew returned to California safely.

While Virgin Orbit is still analyzing what happened during that launch, some details have become more evident. There was a failure in a high-pressure liquid oxygen (LOX) line in the first stage. The anomaly led to a loss of engine thrust. Since then, the team has been working to investigate and correct the defect so that the next launch can occur smoothly and safely.

Analyzing Launcher One
The team has been hard at work studying data and making corrections to ensure that the second launch goes smoothly. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Launching small satellites for NASA

What will make the second launch demo even more unique, however, is that Cosmic Girl will also be carrying 11 CubeSats for NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). This initiative provides for small satellites built by universities, high schools, and nonprofits, to fly on launches and conduct scientific experiments or demonstrations in space. The experiences learned from this is invaluable to students and researchers.

Virgin Orbit
Alongside a crew of talented professionals, there will be 11 well-built small satellites from several universities. Photo: Virgin Orbit

The 11 satellites come from a wide variety of US-based universities and research centers, including NASA’s Ames Research Center, Vanderbilt University, California Polytechnic University, and more.

Virgin Orbit’s CEO Dan Hart said the following in a release viewed by Simple Flying:

“We are so very honored to be supporting NASA by flying these payloads on our upcoming Launch Demo mission. NASA’s mission, coupled with the opportunity to provide a boost to space for university students, is incredibly inspiring to our whole team. It aligns perfectly with our central theme being to open space for everyone. The Virgin Orbit team is hard at work putting the final touches on our next rocket, and doing everything possible to assure a safe and successful flight.”

For now, we just have to wait and watch for Virgin Orbit’s second launch. Simple Flying wishes the Virgin Orbit team all the best and good luck for the second launch!

Altogether, what are your thoughts about this project? Let us know what you think in the comment section.