Cosmic Girl is slated to take to the skies once again next month for Virgin Orbit’s fourth launch, which aims to deliver numerous satellites into orbit for various government agencies, including the United States Space Force.
One of the firm’s LauncherOne rockets arrived at the Mojave Air and Space Port after departing the Long Beach production facility on April 28. The rocket will undergo flight prep before being attached under the wing of the modified Boeing 747 known as Cosmic Girl.
The launch window for the mission is expected to open June 29 at 8 p.m. local time.
The mission, “Straight Up,” is slated to carry seven satellites to an orbit approximately 500 kilometers above the planet’s surface at 45-degree inclination, according to the company. This orbit has never been reached from the West Coast.
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. The seven satellites are from multiple government agencies and will serve as experiments to demonstrate various technologies, including adaptive radio frequency and space domain awareness.
“Virgin Orbit has been rising ‘straight up’ since we began commercial launch operations 18 months ago,” CEO Dan Hart said in a statement. “More and more, we are seeing the importance of space to the security of the U.S. and allied countries. We are honored and committed to supporting the Space Force at this critical time.”
To date, Virgin Orbit has launched three missions, including eight Department of Defense science and technology demonstrations across two flights. In all, Cosmic Girl has delivered 26 satellites into orbit.
The mission is named after American singer Paula Abdul’s breakthrough song from her debut album “Forever Your Girl,” which was released through Virgin Records on June 21, 1988. The record was the most successful debut album ever at the time, the company stated, and the song remains Abdul’s biggest international hit.
One day after announcing the “Straight Up” launch, Virgin Orbit unveiled the expansion of its fleet, stating a second modified plane will join Cosmic Girl in carrying out launch missions around the world.
Florida-based aerospace and defense innovator L3Harris Technologies, which partnered with Virgin for the development of Cosmic Girl, will again modify a 747 to carry and deploy the LauncherOne system. The agreement is for L3Harris to acquire two 747 airframes, one of which is slated to be modified and delivered to Virgin in 2023, according to the announcement.
It was not immediately clear when the third aircraft would be modified and delivered.
The Florida firm will overhaul the Cosmic Girl design with a new cargo configuration that is expected to allow Virgin to deliver its rockets—and ground support system—around the world in the same aircraft that will launch them.
“Virgin Orbit is at an exciting juncture in our growth as a company,” Hart said in the announcement. “As we expand our fleet to serve customers worldwide, we’re enthusiastic to once again partner with L3Harris.”