During the first night mission, Virgin Orbit successfully launches satellites

During the first night mission, Virgin Orbit successfully launches satellites

At 1:49 a.m. ET (10:49 p.m. local), Virgin Orbit launched a rocket carrying seven satellites from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, marking the small satellite launcher’s first successful night flight. The satellites were launched into low Earth orbit by the company’s Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, Cosmic Girl, which had the LauncherOne rocket affixed beneath one of its wings.

Straight Up, named after a Paula Abdul song from 1988, was a NASA Space Test Program mission involving seven research satellites. Virgin Orbit, like with previous flights, launched the satellites into space by having Cosmic Girl carry the LauncherOne rocket 35,000 feet above the earth, giving it a headstart before the rocket detaches and launches its payload into orbit. Virgin Orbit first postponed the trip on Thursday after discovering that the temperature of its rocket propellant was “slightly out of limits.”

Virgin Orbit has attempted five launches in total but has only failed once, on its maiden test flight in May 2020. Since first reaching space in January 2021, it has been on a roll, delivering a pair of satellites into orbit in June 2021, and completing yet another mission earlier this year. The Straight Up mission is Virgin Orbit’s fourth successful flight to date.

Virgin Orbit is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson and is not to be confused with Virgin Galactic, the company’s commercial spaceflight division. Last year, the company became public through a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) merger. While it has so far accomplished all of its launches from Southern California, Virgin Orbit intends to launch from Cornwall, England later this year.

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