The company stressed that the tests were “strictly in accordance with the plan.”
The American company Virgin Orbit of British billionaire Richard Branson on Sunday conducted successful tests of the air-launch system of the LauncherOne launch vehicle. According to the company’s Twitter account, the rocket launched a group of CubeSat microsatellites into orbit.
Virgin Orbit stressed that the tests were carried out “strictly according to plan.” A modified Boeing 747 aircraft with a LauncherOne rocket fixed under the wing took off on Sunday from a spaceport in the Mojave Desert (California). Approximately 50 minutes after the plane took off, the rocket was automatically dropped at the intended point over the Pacific Ocean.
The engines of both stages of the launch vehicle worked in the specified mode. About ten minutes later, LauncherOne was launched into orbit. Thus, Virgin Orbit successfully completed the test of the air-launch system of the launch vehicle for the first time.
LauncherOne reaches 21.3 m in length, consists of two stages, and can reach speeds of up to 28.1 thousand km / h. The first test of the launch vehicle in May last year failed – after dropping from the plane, the rocket engines did not turn on.
Virgin Orbit suggests that with the help of LauncherOne, it will be possible to put satellites weighing up to 500 kg into orbit. The company believes that this method of launching a rocket with a satellite can provide greater mobility and be cheaper than competitors.