Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit loks set to make history this afternoon with the first orbital test flight of its LauncherOne vehicle.
DESIGNED to deliver small satellites into orbit, LauncherOne is due to take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California this afternoon, with “minor sensor issues” resolved within the last half hour.
The objective is to test that each part of the process works as they are supposed to once the launch vehicles progress to operational status.
LauncherOne will be released from under the wings of the company’s modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft in mid-air before igniting its own rocket to make its journey to the Earth’s low-orbit.
If all goes to plan, and LauncherOne reaches an altitude of 80km, it will be the first time this kind of launch system has reached space.
Virgin Orbit’s vice-president of special projects, Will Pomerantz, said yesterday while “about half” of an aerospace company’s first full flights don’t succeed, he has faith in the work of the team behind the project.
Pomerantz said you “get to a point where you have looked under every rock and verify that there’s nothing more for you to do to verify that the system is ready”.
He stressed that’s what the team has done, having carried out “an enormous amount of tests”, and “essentially done everything that we can think of that we should do, including fill the rocket up with cryogenics and fuel and pressure and fly it out to the drop”.