After postponing the launch that was originally scheduled for Wednesday, Virgin Orbit successfully delivered seven satellites to orbit early this morning after the Friday night launch of its “Straight Up” mission, the company announced.
The U.S. Space Force procured the launch for the Rocket Systems Launch Program, with payloads provided by the Department of Defense Space Test Program. Among the payload was Lonestar, a tactical space support vehicle developed by Dynetics for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
Other spacecraft delivered to orbit include two CubeSats for NASA’s ELaNa 39 mission. One satellite will monitor energy input from the sun to the top of Earth’s atmosphere, while the other will test GPS for future on-orbit assembly, docking and formation flying SmallSat missions.
Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747, Cosmic Girl, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port Friday at 10:50 p.m. local time, marking the company’s first-ever evening operation. The airplane then traveled several hundred miles before releasing the LauncherOne system above the Pacific Ocean.
At 12:55 a.m. today, the firm successfully delivered its payloads in orbit approximately 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface at a 45-degree inclination. LauncherOne was the first—and remains the only—system capable of reaching this orbit from the West Coast.
While the launch was originally slated for Wednesday, Virgin Orbit stood down when the rocket’s propellant temperature was not optimal.
“Straight Up” is the first of three missions included in a Space Force contract awarded to Virgin Orbit in April 2020.
The mission was named for American singer Paula Abdul’s breakthrough song, “Straight Up,” which was released on her 1988 debut album “Forever Your Girl,” released by Virgin Records. “Straight Up” was the Long Beach company’s fourth successful mission since it was founded in 2017.
Virgin Orbit has delivered a total of 33 satellites to orbit and has a 100% mission success rate.
The firm is now preparing for a mission in collaboration with the United Kingdom Space Agency, the Royal Air Force and Space Port Cornwall. The mission will mark Virgin Orbit’s first international launch and will be the first orbital launch for U.K. soil.