Virgin Orbit achieved great success on Sunday with a test flight that not only met its goals of reaching space and orbit, but also delivered onboard payloads for NASA, which was also its first commercial mission. The launch was a success in all respects, leading Virgin Orbit to become an active small payload launcher for commercial and defense customers.
Today's sequence of events for # LaunchDemo2 went exactly according to plan, from safely executing our ground operations to successful full-duration burns on both engines. To say we're excited would be a massive understatement, but 240 characters still couldn't do it justice. pic.twitter.com/ZKpoi7hkGN
– Virgin Orbit (@Virgin_Orbit) January 18, 2021
Above, you can watch the actual launch for yourself – the moment the LauncherOne rocket from & # 39; Cosmic Girl & # 39; solves, a modified Boeing 747 airliner that takes off normally from a standard runway and then climbs to a cruising altitude to release the missile, then ignites its own engines and flies the rest of the way into space. Virgin Orbit's launch model is designed to reduce the barriers to moving small payloads into orbit when compared to traditional vertical launch vehicles. This successful test flight proves that the model works.
Virgin Orbit is now joining a small but growing group of private launchers that have actually reached space and made it into orbit. That should be good news for the small satellite launch market, which is still much more in demand than supply. Virgin Orbit also offers something very different from current launch providers like SpaceX, which typically serve larger payloads or have to offer ridesharing for those with smaller spacecraft. The LauncherOne design potentially means more on-demand, responsive, and quick-start launch services for satellite operators.