Virgin Orbit has successfully completed its first-ever satellite launch. On January 17, 2021, the aerospace company delivered a payload consisting of nine small satellites into Earth’s orbit. As a result, Virgin Orbit has now joined the ranks of SpaceX as being a commercial provider of satellite launch services.
About the Launch
Of course, Virgin Orbit uses a completely different system to launch satellites than its SpaceX counterpart. Rather than using traditional rockets, Virgin Orbit uses a highly customized 747. Dubbed “Cosmic Girl,” the customized 747 it’s designed to release satellites during flight.
Virgin Orbit had attempted to launch satellites using Cosmic Girl back in May. Unfortunately, the aerospace company was forced to cancel the launch due to an unexpected malfunction. It appears that Virgin Orbit has since corrected the issue. Virgin Orbit’s latest attempt was a complete success, resulting in the delivery of all nine satellites into Earth’s orbit. The 747 delivered nine small satellites that were provided by researchers from the University of Colorado. The nine small satellites are designed to monitor the temperature from Earth’s orbit, which researchers will analyze.
How does the Cosmic Girl release satellites into Earth’s orbit exactly? Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl features a payload-carrying rocket. Upon reaching the appropriate altitude, Cosmic Girl releases the rocket while shooting it up into Earth’s orbit. The rocket then releases the payload, allowing the satellites to float around Earth. According to Virgin Orbit, the rockets used on Cosmic Girl are capable of reaching speeds of 17,000 miles per hour.
“In both a literal and figurative sense, this is miles beyond how far we reached in our first Launch Demo,” wrote Virgin Orbit in a tweet following the launch. “Payloads successfully deployed 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,” the company added.
What’s Next for Virgin Orbit?
Now that Virgin Orbit has demonstrated a successful launch, you might be wondering what’s next for the aerospace company. Well, Virgin Orbit intends to sell its services to other companies and organizations. CNN reports that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as the U.S. military, have already agreed to buy Virgin Orbit’s satellite-launching services. Along with government organizations, Virgin Orbit is expected to sell its services to private companies.