Η Virgin Orbit, one Mexican start up Based in California, sent its first rocket into orbit around the earth. A modified Boeing 747 carried the 21-meter rocket, which was then detached from the aircraft and launched into space on Sunday.
Virgin Orbit 747, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, took off from California around 10:30 a.m. with the rocket, called LauncherOne, located under the left wing of the aircraft. The aircraft flew over the Pacific Ocean, releasing the LauncherOne and allowing it to activate its rocket engine and advance at more than 17.000 miles per hour, fast enough to begin orbiting the Earth.
The company made a post on its account at Twitter saying: "Both literally and figuratively, it's a lot longer than we got to our first Start Demo."
The rocket carried tiny satellites from the program Nanosatellite Training Launch of NASA, known as ELaNa, which allows schoolchildren high school and college to design and assemble small satellites that NASA then pays to launch into space.
The nine small satellites carried by Virgin Orbit on Sunday included one satellite temperature monitoring by University of Colorado at Boulder, a satellite that will study how tiny particles collide in space from University of Central Florida and an experimental radiation detection satellite from University of Louisiana.
Virgin Orbit confirmed in a tweet that all satellites "successfully entered our target orbit".
Virgin Orbit is only the third company "New Space”(Start-ups hoping to review the traditional industry with innovative technologies) that managed to get on track, after SpaceX and the Rocket Lab. The way is now open for Virgin Orbit to launch satellites for a number of customers, including NASA and military and private companies that use satellites for commercial purposes.
The company conducted several "drop tests" of the LauncherOne rocket, including flying over the Pacific and sinking into the ocean. Virgin Orbit's first attempt to launch a rocket came last May, when LauncherOne had malfunctions shortly after release and the flight was canceled. This failure was not unexpected.
"Launching from Earth into space is very difficult", Said the company after the launch attempt in 2020.
Virgin Orbit would make a second launch attempt in late 2020, but the company was forced to postpone it as "some" of its employees tested positive in Covid-19.
Virgin Orbit, like other space technology companies in the United States, is allowed to continue operations during the pandemic because the government considered the space sector part of the country's "critical infrastructure" in March. According to one industry group, the sector's commercial activity is also linked to critical national security programs. USA and NASA programs.