Virgin Orbit bounces back from maiden failure as its LauncherOne reaches orbit

by | Jan 18, 2021 | Launches, Satellites, Seradata News

After several technical delays and a maiden launch failure (and at a developmental cost of around US$1 billion), Virgin Orbit finally achieved the first successful flight of its air-launched LauncherOne vehicle. The procedure began with the Boeing 747-400 “Cosmic Girl” carrier aircraft lifting off from the Mojave Air and Space Port airstrip at 1838 GMT on 17 January.

The aircraft, carrying the 21-metre-long LauncherOne rocket slung under its left wing, flew out across the Pacific. It then initiated a racetrack flight pattern off the coast of California. As it headed south, after a steep climb, the carrier aircraft released the LauncherOne rocket at an altitude of 35,000 feet. The drop time was 1939 GMT. After a five second fall, the rocket ignited its first-stage Newton Three liquid propellant rocket engine, which this time achieved full thrust and carried on with its firing.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne fires correctly after its release. Courtesy: Virgin Orbit

The previous maiden launch had ended at this point with the rocket falling into the sea after a commanded engine shutdown due to a broken liquid oxygen line. This time the first-stage engine burned well and, following separation of the first stage, the rocket’s second stage fired its Newton Four engine for a six-minute burn to achieve orbit.

After a brief second burn to achieve target orbit, it released its 10 CubeSat payloads (CACTUS 1, CAPE 3, Exocube 2, MiTEE, PICS 1 & 2, PolarCube, Q-pace, RadFXSat, TechEdSat 7) into a 500 km Sun-synchronous low Earth orbit. The payloads carried were for US universities and NASA, all part of the NASA ELaNa sponsored launch programme.

Virgin Orbit hopes to market this launch vehicle for primary launches and constellation replenishment flights for the growing small satellite sector. On a more poignant note, the launch vehicle carried the inscription “For Eve” – a reference to the recent death from Covid-19 of Virgin Orbit Founder Sir Richard Branson’s inspirational mother Eve.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to www.seradata.com/spacetrak

Related Articles

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Starlink Group 5-2

On 26 January 2023, at 0932 GMT, a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 successfully launched 56 Starlink Gen2 satellites from Space Read more

Tianwen 1 mission’s Zhurong-1 Mars rover may have expired in its sleep

SpaceNews reports (quoting the South China Morning Post) that the Zhurong 1 Mars rover as part of the Tianwen 1 Read more

Japan completes its first launch of the year of the radar reconnaissance satellite IGS RADAR-7

Kicking off its launch year, Japan has placed a radar reconnaissance satellite into near-500 km sun-synchronous low Earth orbit (LEO). Read more

Tom Cruise may have saved cinema industry with Top Gun-Maverick but he has even higher movie plans with space station studio module now ordered

While action film actor Tom Cruise has his detractors, you cannot say he is not successful. Recently starring in the Read more

Rocket Lab’s Electron KS rocket performs another successful launch – this time from the US East Coast

After another day's delay due to bad weather, a Rocket Lab Electron KS rocket successfully launched three 30 kg Hawk Read more

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Starlink Group 2-4 from Vandenberg

At 1543 GMT on 19 January a SpaceX Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket conducted its first Starlink mission of 2023. Read more

SpaceX deploys GPS satellite for US Space Force

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 from Cape Canaveral, USA at 1224 GMT on 18 January.  The vehicle Read more

Categories

Archives