Virgin orbit put 10 satellites into orbit and successfully completed the first airborne satellite launch mission


Sina science and technology news on January 18 morning news, virgin orbit’s rocket has reached orbit and released 10 satellites, marking the success of virgin orbit’s low-cost launch mission on Sunday.
Virgin Galactic, a sister company, is owned by Richard Branson, a billionaire. Virgin orbit made its second small satellite launch test late Sunday. They made their first attempt a few months ago, but failed to reach orbit. It is also the first time the company has launched a working satellite into space on behalf of NASA.
According to the established plan, after 1:00 p.m. EDT, the Boeing 747 customized by Virgin orbit will take off from the Virgin Galactic space port in the Mojave Desert, with satellite launch rockets installed on its wings. When it rises to 10000 meters, the rocket will fall off and ignite, putting the satellite into earth orbit. Virgin orbit said the launch window will last until 5 p.m. est.
Virgin orbit tweeted Sunday morning that it planned to take off at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time (1:30 p.m. Eastern time).
Although the company plans to post updates via Twitter throughout the flight, it does not provide live streaming, only photos and videos after the test.
Prior to this, virgin orbit has spent many years developing this airborne rocket launch technology, and has been conducting increasingly complex flight tests since 2018. But the first full test in May last year was not completed as planned. At that time, after the plane successfully took off, the rocket fell as planned and the main engine was ignited. However, there was a problem with the liquid oxygen fuel pipeline, which caused the rocket to fail to reach the orbit.
In a conference call earlier this month, virgin rail CEO Dan Hart said that despite the epidemic, the company has adjusted the propellant production lines and conducted “extensive testing” since May.
“I was fortunate to see the birth of the virgin rail project, to study the details in depth, to promote the maturity of the system, and to achieve these achievements in the epidemic. It’s amazing. ” Hart said.
In addition to fixing technical defects, another difference between the previous test and this one is that virgin orbit will try for the first time to deliver real commercial services to a customer who is NASA. NASA has asked virgin orbit to carry 10 different small satellites for universities. Each satellite will perform different tasks, some to clean up space debris, some to carry out inspection tasks, some to maintain other spacecraft, and some to observe the weather.
The mission was originally scheduled for December, but was delayed because some members of the virgin orbital launch team were forced to isolate. Prior to today’s launch, Hart said, virgin rail had “done a lot of work to ensure the safety of the team.”. Hart said that the important measure is to let people work remotely, but for those who have to work on site, virgin rail has also strengthened the implementation of social distance, allowing employees to use personal protective equipment, disinfect the workplace and install air purifiers. “We use every tool you can imagine,” he said. But we have a team that is eager and focused. ”
The launch method of virgin orbit satellite is very different from SpaceX or other important NASA suppliers. But the company believes that their low-cost launch route will help them capture market share from the emerging small satellite market. With the help of airborne launch mode, the virgin orbit system does not need too large rockets or too much fuel, which helps to reduce the cost. The company believes that this system is very flexible, because theoretically, as long as it is able to take off and land the Boeing 747, it is possible to complete the satellite launch.
But virgin rail must first demonstrate the effectiveness of the system and the profitability of the company. Their supporters include Branson and Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop airborne launch systems, they are still looking for up to 200 million dollars in new funding.
Hart stressed on the phone that this is a test flight, and the company will be glad to be able to obtain various data so as to continue to develop and improve the launch system.
But Hart said that considering the actual satellite on board this time, virgin orbit has been “working hard and studying all the details carefully to ensure that we can do a good job of putting the satellite into orbit.”. They also received help from an investigation team composed of personnel and industry experts from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. air force, etc.
“It gives a whole new perspective to the whole engineering team, so we don’t get stuck in our own opinions,” Hart said