Virgin Orbit launches seven CubeSats into LEO for military and commercial customers

by | Jul 1, 2021 | commercial launch services, Launches, Military space, Satellites

Virgin Orbit has successfully launched a LauncherOne rocket its the carrier aircraft, Cosmic Girl, at 1447 GMT on 30 June. The “Tubular Bells: Part One” mission began with the carrier aircraft taking off from Mojave Air and Space Port, California, USA at 1350 GMT. After leaving Mojave the aircraft headed out over the Pacific Ocean to the launch zone at around 35,000 feet. Four seconds after dropping the vehicle from under the aircraft, Launcher One ignited its single NewtonThree first stage engine to start taking the seven satellites onboard to orbit.

A still from the on-board camera on the LauncherOne rocket

A still from the on-board camera on the LauncherOne rocket following separation from its Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft, visible in the background. Courtesy of Virgin Orbit


Four of the payloads are the same design, being carried for the US Space and Missile Center and it is assumed they will be used for technology testing. The identities of the four CubeSats are unknown at the time of launch so they have been given designators derived from their mission number: STP-PV27A-1; STP-PV27A-2; STP-PV27A-3; and STP-PV27A-4. The BRIK II, a 6U-CubeSat is owned by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF) and will be used as a testbed for various communications technology experiments. The STORK-4 and STORK-5 3U-CubeSats are owned by the SatRevolution, a Polish company, and will be used for commercial earth observation.

Phil Hylands contributed to this article. 

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