The Richard Branson-backed Virgin Orbit aircraft launch system is close to mounting its first orbital demo flight.
Just before the holidays the company said it would be ready to perform this demo flight and launch early in the New Year. Following ground tests, Virgin intends flying its ‘Cosmic Girl’ Boeing 747 aircraft from its Mojave Air & Space Port in the Mojave Desert with a LauncherOne rocket attached to a wing of the Boeing. This attachment is the key development, and follows from the delivery of a rocket from its factory in Long Beach and subsequent propellant loading and pressure testing.
This initial demo flight will not involve launching a rocket. That will follow.
Virgin Orbit has received £7.35 million from the UK’s Space Agency in order to launch an aircraft and rocket missions from Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay Airport with a target date of Q4/2021.