Virgin Orbit launches satellites into orbit from 747 jet

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Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit successfully launched a payload satellites into space on Wednesday, its second mission of the year.

The satellite launch service’s modified Boeing 747, nicknamed “Cosmic Girl,” took off Wednesday morning from Mojave, Calif., With a 70-foot-long double-decker rocket called LauncherOne under its left wing.

The rocket contained seven small satellites, including several from the US Department of Defense, the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Polish company SatRevolution.

About an hour later, the rocket fell from the plane’s wing over the Pacific Ocean and ignited its engine to head toward the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. The second stage of the rocket detached from the first stage and deployed the satellites to orbit.

“Preliminary data analysis tells us that we have reached our target orbit perfectly and that the payloads are deploying” Virgin Orbit said Wednesday afternoon.

“It was just magical,” Branson said on the company’s live broadcast. He said he hopes the missions will become routine.

Virgin Orbit successfully deployed 10 satellites for NASA’s launch services program in January.

The company is a spin-off of Virgin Galactic, Branson’s space tourism company.


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Virgin Galactic last week got Federal Aviation Administration approval to begin launching customers into space. More than 600 people have made reservations to make the trip, and Branson said he plans to go to space himself.

In an interview after Wednesday’s launch, Branson did not say when the trip could take place, according to The Associated Press.

“All I can say is when the engineers tell me I can go to space, I’m ready, fit and healthy to go,” he said. “Then we’ll see.”


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