Virgin Orbit launched satellites into orbit for the first time using a Boeing 747

Virgin Orbit, the space division of Virgin Group, launched for the first time into space satellites that were successfully positioned in orbit using a LauncherOne rocket. This is the company’s first successful business operation, following many tests in the last few years. Unlike SpaceX and Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit does not use rockets that take off from the ground on their own, but launch them from flight, using an airplane.

Virgin Orbit offers a possibly cheaper alternative to SpaceX services

Like other successful billionaires such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group leader Richard Branson has long invested in space exploration solutions. Virgin Galactic is still working on this, but in the meantime, Virgin Orbit wants to provide commercial services to state agencies and more, for the launch of satellites in orbit. After the successful launch of a LauncherOne rocket, which has been in testing since 2017, Branson’s company could “steal” from the SpaceX market for the launch of satellites.

Because the Virgin Orbit solution uses a modified Boeing 747 aircraft called the Cosmic Girl, the costs for each launch are significantly lower than in the case of a SpaceX launch, which launches objects into space via reusable missiles. Of course, the load that Virgin Orbit can carry in space is smaller.

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At the moment it has launched only a series of satellites developed by students

LauncherOne, the rocket that holds the satellites, is launched in flight and can reach over 17,000 miles per hour on its own, thus reaching orbit. There, the rocket successfully placed a group of nine small satellites into orbit via the NASA Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa). This program encouraged high school students and college students in the United States to develop satellites and then launch them into space. NASA covers launch costs.

These satellites include a University of Colorado temperature monitoring star, a satellite that studies how small particles collide in space at the University of Central Florida, and a satellite that can detect radiation from Lafayette University in Louisiana.

Clients such as NASA, the US military, but also several private companies have shown interest in collaborating with Virgin Orbit in the future.

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