Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company, namely the Virgin Orbit has succeeded in releasing its first satellites into space. 10 payloads were lifted on the same rocket in total and it was launched from the wing of one of the old 747 jumbos of the entrepreneur. Sir Richard is expecting to tap into the growing market for availing small, lower cost satellites. As the launch is performed, he can theoretically send up the spacecraft by using a jet plane from anywhere in the world.
His Virgin Orbit system has to be licensed in the locality where it is used. There are well advanced plans to bring the 747 and its rockets to Cornwall in the Southwest of England. The success that it received on Sunday for the team of Sir Richard and this further failed to launch a rocket in the month of May of the previous year. The effort was thwarted by a beach’s propellant line that fed liquid oxygen to the first stage of the booster’s Newton 3 engine.
The modified 747, named Cosmic Girl, did leave its base in California’s Mojave desert at 10:50 PST (18:50 UTC) to fly out over the Pacific Ocean. The jet banked hard to the right, which lies a little beneath the 60 minutes later, and was cruising at 35,000ft (10,500m), thereby dropping as it did so at the 21 m long rocket that was clamped to the underside. LauncherOne ignited it’s engine within a few seconds and it was climbing into space.
The correct deployment of different spacecraft onboard at the altitude of approximately 500 km was confirmed after a couple of hours. “A new gateway to space has just sprung open,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “That LauncherOne was able to successfully reach orbit today is a testament to this team’s talent, precision, drive, and ingenuity.”
Sir Richard was finding the right solution to get into the satellite launch business since the year 2008 and his concrete proposal was put at first before the public three years later at the Farnborough International Air Show.
Virgin Orbit is one of those companies that are now racing to meet the demand. The other contenders are Rocket Lab outfit that is known for sending up its vehicles from a ground launch pad in New Zealand. There are trends of other small rocket startups as well, that are situated at different stages of maturation. Even some of the planes are meant to operate from the UK too.