Virgin Orbit, the sister company of the Virgin Galactic spaceflight company, launched on Wednesday its very first fall test using a LauncherOne dummy rocket deployed from a Boeing 747 aircraft carrier named Cosmic Girl, announced Space.com.
The test did not consist of a real rocket launch – the aircraft carrier Boeing 747 has just dropped its 21-meter rocket at a reception site located at Edward's Air Force Base, in the California part of Mojave Desert. In a blog post, Virgin Orbit described the intent of the test as "really focused on those few seconds right after the release, because we make sure that the rocket and the aircraft separate neatly and that we observe how the rocket falls in free fall in the air ".
According to Space.com, Virgin Orbit has not set a specific date for sending LauncherOne test rockets into orbit, except that the rocket must undergo extensive testing beforehand. In an interview with CNBC, CEO Dan Hart said his first test of this type "should take place before the end of summer."
"Later this month, our integration team will complete these tests, assemble the steps and then hand over the rocket to our launch operations team," the company writes in its blog. "After that, our LaunchOps team will perform the checks and rehearsals that any rocket company does before the flight begins."
While Virgin Galactic is about spaceflight – and has recently announced its intention to become the first company in the industry to go public in the midst of profitability projects earning the positive balance by 2021 – Virgin Orbit boiled down to launching small satellites. As Space.com notes, LauncherOne can carry satellites up to 500 kg and is designed to be much more flexible than rockets launched on the ground, which, according to the Virgin group magnate, Richard Branson, could allow launches to Small scale. notice of the day.
"This drop test is the last major demonstration of a four-and-a-half year development program," Hart told CNBC. "It's a huge deal … to separate development work from the start of operations for us and get into orbit."
According to CNBC, Hart said the cost of a launch using LauncherOne would be $ 10 to $ 15 million. It's much cheaper than competitors like Northrop Grumman, whose Pegasus system uses a converted Lockheed Martin L-1011 and costs $ 40 million. Ars Technica reported last year that "exists since 1990 but now flies less once" every year because of its hot air balloon cost.
Hart also told CNBC that Virgin Orbit had more than a dozen launches, the vast majority of them being destined for private companies. One launch will carry a payload from NASA and another will be done on behalf of the Pentagon Defense Innovation Unit, but Hart said that "In small satellites and small launches, the commercial world is in the lead. "LauncherOne is a conventional consumptible system as opposed to Hart added in his interview that Virgin Orbit hoped to be able to launch" every four to six hours "and could potentially increase rocket production to 20 per year , against six currently. sat in factories.[Space.com/CNBC]