Virgin Orbit to launch military satellite into 500-kilometer orbit

Virgin Orbit is finalizing preparations for its Straight Up mission in an effort to compete with SpaceX and Rocket Lab for the deployment of small satellites. The launch will take place on Wednesday, June 29, from the Mojave Space Port in California. As part of the mission, it is planned to launch a payload into orbit for the space testing program of the Ministry of Defense, which will also be the company’s first night launch.

he LauncherOne launch vehicle separates from the Boeing 747. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Straight Up will be Virgin Orbit’s first mission since January 2022 and the fourth overall. The target orbit for the mission will be 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface with an inclination of 45 degrees.

While SpaceX and Rocket Lab use vertical launch from land to send their rockets and payloads into space, Virgin Orbit uses a 20-meter LauncherOne accelerator attached to a modified Boeing 747 rocket launch from the upper layers of the troposphere. As soon as the aircraft is completely freed from the clouds at an altitude of about 9 kilometers, the launch vehicle separates and starts the engine to launch the payload into space. 

LauncherOne. Source: Virgin Orbit

This method of launching small satellites has a number of advantages over competitors. Such missions happen faster and are much cheaper. 

Virgin Orbit History

Virgin Orbit was founded by Richard Branson in 2017. After extensive testing, the first commercial flight took place in 2021. To date, LauncherOne rockets have delivered a number of commercial, civilian satellites into orbit, as well as fulfilled defense orders.

Since the Straight Up mission takes place at night, there will be no live broadcast of the event. However, the company promises to keep interested people informed through their social media accounts.

Earlier, Virgin Galactic canceled all passenger flights to space in 2022.

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time