Five and a half months after its first successful launch, Long Beach-based Virgin Orbit successfully delivered a payload of seven satellites to Low Earth Orbit during its “Tubular Bells: Part One” mission early Wednesday morning.
The rocket was carrying a payload of seven satellites: four research and development CubeSats for the U.S. Department of Defense, two optical satellites for SatRevolution and the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s first military satellite.
“What an unforgettable experience to be here in Mojave to watch the Virgin Orbit team complete another perfect mission to space,” Virgin Orbit founder Richard Branson said in a statement. “Everything went exactly to plan and the fact that we dropped the rocket from our 747 at 7:47 a.m. made it particularly fitting. Perfect timing!”
Cosmic Girl, Virgin Orbit’s customized Boeing 747 aircraft took off from Mojave Air and Space Port at 6:50 a.m., flying out over the Pacific Ocean—about 50 miles south of the Channel Islands, before releasing its LauncherOne vehicle from under the plane’s wing. After detaching from the aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket ignited and carried the payload to 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) June 30, 2021
The company failed its first launch attempt in May last year due to a breach in a high-pressure line carrying cryogenic liquid oxygen to a combustion chamber. The company’s second showing was successful when it delivered 10 satellites to orbit in January.
“Two successful launches and two groups of happy customers in 5 months really speaks to our team’s abilities. They’re making air launch look easy—and I can tell you from experience that it’s not,” CEO Dan Hart said in a statement. “We can now proudly say that 17 satellites launched by our system are up in space exactly in their target orbits.”
Wednesday’s mission name is a nod to founder Richard Branson’s early years when, in 1973, he established Virgin Records to release British musician Mike Oldfield’s debut record, “Tubular Bells.”
Virgin Orbit constructs its LauncherOne vehicle at its 180,000-square-foot headquarters in the Douglas Park commercial complex adjacent to Long Beach Airport.