Virgin Orbit achieved a significant milestone on Sunday morning when a test flight reached space and orbit while releasing its payload built by NASA and various American universities.
Virgin Orbit's Boeing 747 aircraft, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, took off from the coast of Southern California with a 70-foot-long rocket, named LauncherOne, nestled right beneath the wing of the plane. Boeing 747 flew over the Pacific Ocean before releasing the rocket and propel itself to the Earth's orbit.
This successful mission allowed Virgin Orbit to become the third private launch company to reach space, right after SpaceX and Rocket Lab. This success story is good news for the satellite launch market, where demand is still higher than supply. This mission will also allow Virgin Orbit to start launching satellites for customers such as NASA and other private companies.
In 2017, Virgin Orbit separated from Virgin Galactic, a company founded to carry humans on suborbital flights for spaceflight experience and adventure. The newly separated company conducted several test flights of its LauncherOne rocket with the first demonstration to put their rocket into the Earth's orbit in May 2020. The LauncherOne rocket was released successfully during that mission but flew very briefly before it completely stopped thrusting.
The growing space focused company was expecting to go for a second attempt in late 2020; however, the company postponed its tests after finding out that a few of its employees had been tested positive for coronavirus.
Like any other space technology company operating in the US, Virgin Orbit maintained its operations throughout the COVID pandemic due to the US government's beliefs that the space sector is an integral part of America's infrastructure.
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