After years of preparation, British businessman Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is finally ready to try a proper launch demo. The Launch Demo Mission will start on Sunday, May 24, and extends through Monday, May 25. In both cases, the time window opens from 10 A.M. – 2 P.M. Pacific.
Its 747 carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl will take off from Mojave Air and Space Port, fly out over the Pacific ocean, and two-stage orbital rocket, LauncherOne, which will then proceed to ignite its engine in mid-air for the first time.
The upcoming demonstration test was in preparation for five years. Virgin Orbit, during this time, conducted hundreds of fire tests of rocket engines, two dozen test flights of the modernized Boeing 747, and countless tests of components and elements of the air-launch system. Recently Vergin Orbit has reported about end-to-end dress rehearsal of a Cosmic Girl launch vehicle with a LauncherOne rocket.
In this case, the task for the launch vehicle is to fly as long as possible, while allowing the on-board devices to collect as much useful information as possible. In the event of a successful launch into space, LauncherOne will launch a load into orbit and will leave orbit so as not to interfere with other vehicles.
This is something that no one has done before – lighting an orbital-class, liquid-fueled, horizontally-launched vehicle in flight at a 50-mile attitude. This means it can be risky – the mission could either go well or go miserably wrong. However, regardless of the ultimate conclusion of this Launch Demo, the team is excited to learn from this.
On May 1, Branson’s other company Virgin Galactic conducted the flight test of its SpaceShipTwo spaceplane for the first time. The spacecraft launched at an altitude of 15.2 km, separated from the Eve carrier aircraft, and made a planned flight, landing in a spaceport in New Mexico.