Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has received its US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licence covering its debut flight for its LauncherOne aircraft+rocket launcher.
The FAA permission was issued June 29th and the aircraft’s flight is expected later this summer. This planned flight will take place from Virgin’s Mojave Desert HQ at the Space Port. It will comprise a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft (“Cosmic Girl”) and possibly with a Northrop Grumman Pegasus rocket slung beneath its Port-side wing.
The FAA licence talks of Virgin’s flight starting and ending at the Mojave Air & Space Port, and potentially transporting “CubeSat” although it doesn’t specify whether this is a single satellite or multiple small satellites. It is expected that Virgin will initially fly a test without the launcher rocket, along with subsequent flights prior to an actual satellite launch.
Virgin Orbit has to have in place liability insurance worth $64 million covering the take-off and flight, plus another $3 million for ground-based activity at the Space Port.