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Virgin's LauncherOne reaches orbit and drops NASA satellites

Virgin’s LauncherOne reaches orbit and drops NASA satellites

Cosmic Girl LauncherOne for the first time during drop test in July 2019.

Cosmic Girl LauncherOne for the first time during drop test in July 2019.
Photo: Virgin Orbit / Greg Robinson

The commercial race to space has become more crowded. Virgin Orbit, a subsidiary of Richard Branson, a sister company to Virgin Galactic, has successfully launched a missile into orbit for the first time. It has also successfully delivered payloads to a client, NASA, and shot down a number of nanosatellites sponsored by the agency.

On Sunday, Virgin Orbit It carried out its second test flight For its launcherOne missile, Which are launched into space using an unconventional launch system. I amRather than take off From all On the ground, the missile is carried under it Boeing 747 custom aircraft suite, It’s called “Cosmic Girl” and released in a pre-defined location. Once launched, the missile ignites and propels itself into orbit. That is exactly what happened on Sunday.

As he explained the edgeBy launching its missile from an aircraft in the air, the Virgin Orbit launch system does not require a large missile or similar fuel. This is financially good, as it helps keep the cost downAnd n. Additionally, the outlet notes that the company is holding it that Her system It is potentially more flexible than others, as it could theoretically launch satellites from wherever the 737 can take off and land.

“Virgin Orbit has achieved something that many thought was impossible,” Branson said in a statement on Sunday. “It was very inspiring to see a Virgin Atlantic 747, Cosmic Girl, send a LauncherOne rocket into orbit. This remarkable flight is the culmination of many years of hard work and will also unleash a whole new generation of innovators on their way into orbit.”

The successful launch was a payback for Virgin Orbit, which was unable to reach orbit the first time Test flight in May last year. The company He said later A problem with a thrust line that broke seconds after the missile The engine caught fire, was behind the failure.

Unlike Virgin Galactic, which she is looking forward to Space tourism, Virgin Orbit is all about a small launch Satellites.

One launcher carried 10 nanosatellites, Called CubeSats, Which is part of NASA’s Education Initiative for Nanosatellites. The program is designed to attract and retain students in STEM, According to NASAStudents are involved in all aspects of the assignment, from development and assembly For testing and launch.

They are called nanosatellites for a reason. CubeSats are designed to be 10x10x10 cm, or about four cubic inchesThe agency explains. Although it can consist of single units, which should weigh less than three pounds (1.33 kg), It can also be combined to form two, three, or six Units. The CubeSats carried by LauncherOne were created by eight American universities as well as NASA itself. Satellite will Work on Research topics like space weather, space radiation, and space debris, among others.

Virgin Orbit says it already has a number of clients booked for subsequent launches, including US Space Force, UK.‘s Royal Force, Italian private space companympany SITAEL, and the Danish satellite manufacturer GomSpace, among others.

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