Space and Aviation

Satellites Launched From Virgin’s 747 Customized Jumbo Jet Reaches Orbit

Sir Richard Branson fulfills his idea of launching a rocket from anywhere which he thought back in 2012. Recently, when Branson’s rocket company Virgin Orbit launched one of its rocket LauncherOne rocket through one of the founder’s old converted 747 Jumbo Jet.  The reports received a state that LauncherOne successfully reached the Earth’s orbit on 17th January, and deployed 9 sets of satellites into their particular target. The launcher was fired from the aircraft on Sunday on 16th January.

The rocket is 70 -foot long (21 m) and was kept underside of the converted Boeing 747 aircraft. To make the weight load less, all the seats were removed from the Boeing.  This was the first success for  California based company Virgin Orbit.

The customized 747 aircraft from Virgin Orbit’s nicknamed Cosmic Girl, took off from Mojave Air, a desert in  California at 10: 50 PST (18:50 UTC), and took over to the Pacific, to release the LauncherOne rocket.

Image Source: Virgin

Once the aircraft reached the height of 35,000 ft. which took less than 60 minutes, the jet swiped and dropped the 21m long rocket in midair. The rocket didn’t even take a couple of seconds to launch the LauncherOne booster and was climbing the stairs in the blink of an eye.

“In both a literal and figurative sense, this is miles beyond how far we reached in our first Launch Demo,” the Company posted on its Twitter account after the rocket reached its target.

The 21m long rocket carried a set of 9  tiny satellites on behalf of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, program, in which high school and college students can design and assemble small satellites. NASA then pays for it to launch into space. 

Some of the satellites that, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne flew with it on the 17th of January, Sunday were from Universities. A few of them includes:

  • The University of Colorado at Boulder: A satellite that monitors the temperature
  • University of Central Florida: A satellite that studies how tiny particles collide in space
  • The University of Louisiana at Lafayette: A satellite experimenting on radiation-detection

Just after four hours from the takeoff, Virgin Orbit confirmed in a tweet that all the satellites were  “Successfully deployed into our target orbit”. The company also tweeted about the achievement as, “

Payloads successfully developed into our target orbit! We are so, so proud to say that LauncherOne has now completed its first mission to space, carrying 9 CubeSat missions into Low Earth Orbit for our friends @NASA. #LaunchDemo2”.

After the first launch failed, Virgin Orbit prepared to try for the second orbital launch in late 2020. However, the preparation was delayed because  “a few” of its employees tested positive for Covid -19”. They couldn’t risk the spread of the virus among the employees. For a better cause, the employees were under a preventive quarantine” according to the company.

The company showed care for its employees and said “We’re grateful and fortunate that most of our teammates have since cleared their preventive quarantines, allowing us to proceed with pre-launch operations”. 

After this successful mission, Virgin Orbit joins third place for New Space company, to reach orbit following SpaceX of Elon Musk and Rocket Lab. Even though there are tens of Space companies that are at hitting their maturity period, Virgin Orbit, wants to help the private sector companies to launch their private satellite into orbit, in a cheaper and fast way comparatively.

The success of Virgin Orbit has already lined up for a host of customers. The main customers being NASA, the military, and other private companies that want to use satellites for its commercial purposes.

Image source: BBC

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