Thursday, September 16, 2021

Virgin Orbit sends satellites into orbit from air-launched rocket

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After reaching its drop-off point about an hour after takeoff, the company’s LauncherOne rocket separated from the aircraft and carried the seven small satellites from three different countries, including the United States, Poland and the Netherlands, into Earth’s orbit. The rocket launch is the first part of Virgin Orbit’s “Tubular Bells” mission, which is named after the first track on Mike Oldfield’s 1973 titular album — the first record released by Richard Branson’s Virgin Records.

“Tubular Bells: Part One” also marks the first mission since the company’s successful orbital demonstration launch in January. Of the seven satellites, four belong to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Test Program, two to the Polish company SatRevolution, and one to the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Instead of a traditional launch pad, the Virgin Orbit system uses a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft to launch a rocket from under the wing of its carrier plane, according to its website. The engines are then ignited and the rockets power themselves into orbit. Wilson Wong is a breaking news reporter with NBC News. 

— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) June 30, 2021 LauncherOne’s first stage, the large lower part of the rocket, separates as the curve of the Earth comes into view and the rocket continues on toward orbit. pic.twitter.com/hRYqKMpmsS

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