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Virgin’s rocket reaches orbit for the first time, deploys satellites

Updated to ET at 5:34 pm on January 17: Virgin Orbit Rocket Reached orbit and released satelliteThat is, Sunday’s mission was a success. The heading has been updated to reflect this. The original story is as follows.

Virgin Orbit, a sister company of billionaire Richard Branson’s space travel suit Virgin Galactic, is testing a second small satellite launch vehicle today, months after its first attempt failed to reach orbit. I will try. It is also the first time the company has launched a satellite into space on behalf of NASA.

After 1:00 pm EST, the Virgin Orbit’s customized Boeing 747 will take off from the Virgin Galactic spaceport in the Mojave Desert, with satellite launch vehicles mounted on its wings and climbing to 35,000 feet. Once in place, the rocket will fall and ignite, placing a small satellite in orbit around the Earth. According to Virgin Orbit, the launch window will continue until 5 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Virgin Orbit Tweet We are aiming for takeoff at 10:30 am (Eastern Standard Time) on Sunday morning.

There is no live stream of testing, but the company Tweet update In flight. Photos and videos will be available sometime after the test is complete.

Virgin Orbit has spent years developing this air-launch-to-launch method and has conducted increasingly complex flight tests since 2018. However, the company’s first full test of its rocket launch capability in May last year did not go as planned. The plane climbed correctly, the rocket fell, and the main engine room ignited. However, due to problems with the liquid oxygen fuel line, the rocket was unable to reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a conference call earlier this month that despite the pandemic, the company made changes to these propellant lines and began “a huge amount of testing” in May.

“look [Virgin Orbit] It’s really nice to see, taking the opportunity to dive into the details, accelerate the maturity of the system, and do it in a pandemic environment, “Hart said.

Aside from the technical fixes, another difference between the previous test and this test is that Virgin Orbit is the first to offer a real commercial payload to its customers: NASA. The space agency has entrusted Virgin Orbit to carry 10 different small satellites for different universities. Each will perform a variety of tasks, from removing space debris to practicing inspection and maintenance of other spacecraft and creating meteorological observations. The complete list is available on the Virgin Orbit website.

The mission was scheduled for December, but was postponed because some members of the Virgin Orbit launch team had to be quarantined. “We’ve made a lot of effort to keep the team safe,” Hart said, prior to today’s launch. Most of it is to get people to work remotely, but for those who have to be in the field According to Hart, Virgin Orbit is reducing social distance, getting employees to use PPE, disinfecting and installing space. Air cleaner. “We have applied all the tools we can imagine to exist in the industry, but we have a team of enthusiastic and focused people,” he said.

The launch attempt was rescheduled earlier this month, but it has been off to today’s window several times.Company Tweet on saturday The hardware is in “great condition” and the weather looks good.

Virgin Orbit’s approach to launching satellites is quite different from that of SpaceX, NASA, and other major launch providers commonly used by others. But that’s what the company believes will help take a bite out of the fast-growing small satellite market. By launching from an aerial plane, Virgin Orbit’s system does not require that large rocket or fuel and helps keep costs down. The company claims that this is a potentially more flexible system, as satellite launches are theoretically possible from anywhere the 747 can take off and land.

(These reasons may be why Virgin Orbit has also signed a contract with the Pentagon. Virgin Orbit also wants to start a mission to Mars.)

But the first Virgin Orbit needs to prove that the system works and the company can make a profit. Supporters such as Branson and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala have supported it through development to date. The company is currently seeking up to $ 200 million in new funding after spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing an air-launch system to be tested again today.

Hart emphasized that this was a test flight and that the company was “excited to get the data” generated along the way so that it could continue to develop and improve its launch system. He also said the Virgin Orbit team “keeps in mind that there is a risk that we will reach the final trajectory.”

However, Hart said that Virgin Orbit “worked hard, looked at all the details, and was the best possible to get into orbit, given that this time it had a real satellite on board. I’m making sure I have a shot. ” The work includes support from a research team of launch partners NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Air Force, and industry experts.

“We really soaked the engineering team with fresh eyes to make sure we weren’t basically drinking the water in our bath,” Hart said.

Updated on January 17, 11:30 am (Eastern Standard Time): Updated takeoff time 1:30 Add new tweets from PMET and Virgin Orbit



Virgin’s rocket reaches orbit for the first time, deploys satellites Source link Virgin’s rocket reaches orbit for the first time, deploys satellites

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