(ORDO NEWS) — Virgin Orbit announced on May 20 that it would send the LauncherOne to its first flight on May 24, but it has modest expectations about the likelihood of success.
The company stated in its appeal that it is currently planning to complete the first LauncherOne mission on May 24, 2020 from the modified Boeing 747 “Cosmic Girl”, which launched from the air and space port of Mojave in California. The four-hour launch window opens at 21:00 Moscow time. The company reserved a reserve flight date for May 25, during the same four-hour period.
About 50 minutes after taking off from the Mojave, flying near the Channel Islands off the coast of California, Cosmic Girl will launch a LauncherOne rocket attached to its left wing. Five seconds later, the rocket will turn on the NewtonThree engine, actuating the first stage for a three-minute start.
After three minutes of engine operation, the first stage is separated, and the smaller NewtonFour engine will activate its second stage – which will run for six minutes. The rocket payload fairing will separate at approximately the 20th second of the second stage. After the engine is turned off, the rocket will be in free flight for 22 minutes, and then it will start the NewtonFour engine again for 15 seconds, after which it will bring the payload to low Earth orbit.
The company does not plan to broadcast the launch and will not collect the press in Mojave due to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it will provide updates on social networks.
Virgin Orbit emphasized that the mission was a test flight, and that previous launch vehicles had about 50% success on first launches. The company describes the payload as a “test payload,” which will remain in orbit only for a short time, even if the launch is successful.
“We will continue this mission as long as we can. The longer LauncherOne flies, the more data we can collect, ”the company said. “If we challenge historic chances and become one of those extremely rare teams that will complete a test mission on the first try and deploy a test payload in orbit, we will collect data and then quickly bring it out of orbit so as not to clutter outer space.”
The company has tested all aspects of the system individually, but this will be the first time that the company has tried to launch rocket engines in the air.
Virgin Orbit said that if the test launch is successful, it will move on to operational missions, starting with NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services, which includes a collection of small satellites.
On May 7, Virgin Orbit also announced plans to launch launches from Andersen’s Air Force base in Guam, where the company can support launches to both equatorial and polar orbits. The first LauncherOne mission from Guam will be for the Department of Defense’s space test program, designated STP-27VP, but the launch date has not yet been determined.
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