Branson's Virgin Orbit seeks to reach space with mid-air rocket launch

By Joey Roulette WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit aims to reach space for the first time on Sunday by launching a rocket from mid-air, a key attempt after aborting the rocket’s first test launch last year. The Long Beach, California-based company loaded its LauncherOne rocket with fuel under clear skies Sunday morning at the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California before aiming to take flight at 10:50 a.m. PT under the wing of a modified Boeing Co 747 nicknamed CosmicGirl.

Reuters January 18, 2021 01:11:12 IST
Branson's Virgin Orbit seeks to reach space with mid-air rocket launch

Bransons Virgin Orbit seeks to reach space with midair rocket launch

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit aims to reach space for the first time on Sunday by launching a rocket from mid-air, a key attempt after aborting the rocket’s first test launch last year.

The Long Beach, California-based company loaded its LauncherOne rocket with fuel under clear skies Sunday morning at the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California before aiming to take flight at 10:50 a.m. PT under the wing of a modified Boeing Co 747 nicknamed CosmicGirl.

The rocket, a 70-foot launcher tailored for sending small satellites to orbit, will be dropped once its CosmicGirl carrier craft reaches peak altitude of around 40,000 feet over the Pacific ocean. It will ignite its single engine to ascend out of Earth’s atmosphere, attempting to send 10 small satellites into orbit for NASA.

For Virgin Orbit, the Launch Demo 2 mission is aimed at “further enhancing our knowledge & demonstrating LauncherOne's full capabilities,” the company wrote on Twitter Sunday.

“It's important to note that as the mission name implies, this is still a test,” it added.

The window for the launch test began on Sunday at 10 a.m. PT (0600 GMT) and lasts until 2 p.m. PT. The company has additional opportunities for the test throughout January.

Virgin executives say high-altitude launches allow satellites to be placed in their intended orbit more efficiently and also minimize weather-related cancellations compared to rockets launched vertically from a ground pad.

Competition is fierce between Virgin Orbit, Firefly and U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, which are designing smaller or non-traditional systems to inject smaller satellites into orbit and meet growing demand.

LauncherOne’s first attempt to reach space early last year was terminated seconds after it was dropped from its carrier aircraft.

The rocket ignited its NewtonThree engine for a few seconds but cut off mid-air due to a broken propellant line, Virgin Orbit’s Chief Executive Dan Hart said in July. The company later said it was able to collect crucial test data during the brief flight.

Virgin Orbit has fallen behind Rocket Lab, which has already completed some 17 orbital launches, though Virgin Orbit says its rocket can haul about twice the weight.

Virgin Orbit’s government services subsidiary VOX Space LLC is selling launches using the system to the U.S. military, with a first mission slated for October under a $35 million U.S. Space Force contract for three missions.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Daniel Wallis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.