Virgin Orbit, through its subsidiary VOX Space, has successfully deployed all seven customer satellites into orbit onboard its LauncherOne rocket on its Above the Clouds mission.
Virgin Orbit’s 747 carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl left from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Jan. 13 and flew to a launch site over the Pacific Ocean. After released from the aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket launched itself toward space and deployed its payload into a precise target orbit 500 kilometers above the Earth surface.
According to the press release, because of the unique air-launch system Virgin Orbit has developed, the Above the Clouds mission was launched in an orbit never before directly accessible from the West Coast of the Americas.
“This accomplishment today really shows the future of space launch capabilities, something that is of paramount importance to national security,” said VOX Space President Mark Baird, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general. “We have the ability to launch anywhere, anytime and unwarned, which allows us to customize the launches to serve a government’s mission and goals, allowing us to be better mission partners in their space operations.”
This launch was awarded to VOX Space by the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit as part of the DOD Space Test Program’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative. It is Virgin Orbit’s third successful flight, and the company has now delivered commercial, government, international and national security satellites to space — to include new customer Spire Global, Inc., and first-ever repeat customers: the DOD Space Test Program and Polish company SatRevolution.
“Our customers are starting to hear back from their satellites that are checking in from orbit — and for us, that’s what success looks like,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “It’s a thrill for our team that this mission included our first repeat customers as well as our first ‘last minute ticket’ customers and reached an orbit that no one had ever reached from the West Coast before, all of which confirms the team’s ability to provide top tier launch service anywhere, anytime.”
“On top of that, we flew through weather and a cloud layer that would have grounded any other launch I’ve worked on in my career, something only made possible by air-launch and our incredible team,” Hart continued. “We can say with confidence that in this new era of regular, frequent, successful missions, we can help our customers and partners use space technology to advance human knowledge and open space for good.”
The satellites launched on this mission include experiments in space-based communications, space debris detection, in-space navigation and propulsion, and satellites that will serve the global agricultural sector.
This launch makes 26 total number of satellites deployed by Virgin Orbit.
“What an unforgettable experience to watch the Virgin Orbit team complete another perfect mission to space,” said Virgin Orbit founder Richard Branson. “I could not be prouder of the work they are doing. I am beaming alongside them. We supported experimental, important work for our three happy customers today. I congratulate them and our wonderful team.”