The company owned by Richard Branson, head of the Virgin group, finally wants to successfully inaugurate a new era in the space industry after two years of testing. Payloads will be launched into space from the Jumbo jet.
The first demonstration took place in May 2020 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Virgin Orbit reported that the takeoff, flight and landing of the Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl, as well as the firing of the rocket suspended from the plane, were successful. Unfortunately, her flight ended in failure. The explosion occurred shortly after separation and engine start. It was a half success for the company and its employees. The team still needed to do some more work on their technology.
The company has already announced its next test, which is scheduled for Jan. 10. Launch windows will still appear on Jan. 17, 24 and 31. The plan is to carry CubeSat microsatellites with experiments belonging to the U.S. Space Agency on the rocket’s next flight. It’s only a matter of time before the space industry is enriched by a new and inexpensive form of launching cargo into Earth’s orbit.
“Our team conducted its pre-launch and flight operations with incredible skill,” – Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said. “Test flights are designed to get data, and now we have a treasure trove of data. We have achieved many of the goals we set for ourselves, although not as many as we would have liked. Nevertheless, we took a big step forward today. Our engineers are already reviewing the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will analyze, adjust and begin preparing for the next test, which will be soon.”
The LauncherOne rocket is powered by two engines, a single NewtonThree on the first stage and a single NewtonFour on the second stage. Both engines are powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene (RP-1). The modern rockets will be able to carry small payloads of up to 225 kilograms into space, but that’s enough to put a constellation of small satellites into orbit, for example.
Virgin Orbit is planning the first commercial missions still in the first quarter of this year. The company anticipates huge interest in this method of launching cargo into space. By the end of the year, up to 12 launches may take place, and in 2022 as many as 24. The acceleration of work by Richard Branson’s team of engineers should not come as a surprise, since there is more and more competition in the world of private space industry.
Stratolaunch, which is working on the project of the world’s largest aircraft of the same name, has similar plans. The machine is built from two modified Boeing 747 fuselages and will be designed to carry and launch rockets with payloads into Earth orbit. The company also plans to build a hypersonic vehicle called Talon-A. With its help, it will be able to carry out projects related to the transportation of goods between global metropolises.