Virgin Orbit’s first night launch was delayed due to “slightly outrageous” propellant temperatures on its LauncherOne rocket.
The launch, codenamed Straight Up, was supposed to take place at 10 pm PDT on Wednesday (6 am BST on Thursday), but will now happen “in the coming days.”
It will be the first night launch for the aerospace company, which is part of British billionaire Sir Richard BransonVirgin group of companies.
When that finally happens, Straight Up will carry seven satellites for the US Space Force into low Earth orbit, about 310 miles (500 km) above Earth.
The satellites will be launched into space on a rocket called LauncherOne, which will be launched from a giant jet aircraft from the Mojave Aerospace Port in California.
Virgin Orbit’s first night launch was delayed by a day due to “slightly outrageous” propellant temperatures on the LauncherOne rocket.
Seven satellites will be launched into space on a rocket called LauncherOne, which will be launched from a giant jet aircraft from Mojave Airfield in California.
Virgin Orbit launches include the firm’s launch vehicle, a modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl (pictured), and a two-stage orbital launcher called LauncherOne tucked into Cosmic Girl’s belly.
LAUNCH FLIGHTS ONE
– May 25, 2020: Refusal
– January 17, 2021: Success
– June 30, 2021: Success
– January 13, 2022: Success
All originated from the Mojave Aerospace Port, California.
– Beginning of July 2022 (from Mojave Aerospace Port)
– September 8, 2022 (from Cornwall Spaceport)
Straight Up, named after Paula Abdul’s 1988 hit, will also be Virgin Orbit’s last launch before historic rise comes from Cornwall in September – the launch of the first satellite in the history of Great Britain.
This will be one of the most significant milestones in UK spaceflight since the launch of the British space program in 1952.
Virgin Orbit Announces Straight Up Launch Delay on twitter less than an hour before the expected launch.
“We are abandoning today’s launch attempt,” the company said.
“Our systems are in excellent condition, but our fuel temperature is slightly out of range, and as a matter of extreme caution, we are cleaning during the day.
“We are proud of the team that performed an extremely professional operation.”
It’s unclear exactly when the launch will be pushed back, although it has been reported that the delay is likely to be only 24 hours, so it could be as early as Friday morning UK time.
Just six days ago, Virgin Orbit said it was preparing for its scheduled launch at 10 p.m. Wednesday local time and “dress rehearsals are complete.”
Just six days ago, Virgin Orbit said it was preparing for its scheduled launch at 10 p.m. Wednesday local time, saying “dress rehearsals are complete.”
Virgin Orbit announced the Straight Up delay on Twitter less than an hour before the expected launch.
HOW THE VIRGIN ORBIT PUTS SATELLITES INTO SPACE
DAY OFF Cosmic Girl, adapted from a Boeing 747, takes off from an air and space port originally in California.
ROCKET DEPLOYMENT At a cruising altitude of about 35,000 feet, the chief pilot presses a large red button that releases a missile from the pylon.
FIRST STAGE BURNING After a 4-second free fall, the NewtonThree’s first stage engine springs to life, accelerating the rocket to over 8,000 mph. Once the fuel is used up, the first stage separates.
SPLITTING THE FACE Now that LauncherOne is between 310 and 745 miles above the Earth’s surface, the fairing opens to expose the payload as it nears its destination.
SATELLITE DEPLOYMENT Finally, with very precise timing, the second stage takes the satellite into its final orbit.
RETURN TO EARTH Atmospheric drag will eventually pull the second stage back to Earth, where it will burn up in the atmosphere, minimizing environmental impact.
“Our equipment is in top-notch condition and the team is exceptionally busy as we prepare for our first night launch,” Tyler Grinnell, Vice President of Tests, Flights and Launches at Virgin Orbit, said on June 24.
“The perspective we got from every previous launch is now really paying off.
“Our crews in the sky and on the ground are ready to continue our mission of getting our customers’ satellites exactly where they need to go.”
When it eventually does, the launch will support the US Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carry a payload for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Testing Program (STP).
The seven satellites launched will carry out experiments in space communications, space navigation and climate change, according to Virgin Orbit.
The firm has already flown three successful consecutive orbital missions with LauncherOne in 2021 and 2022, the most recent being in January.
All three launched from the Mojave Aerospace Port in California, but the next one, scheduled for Sept. 8, will be launched from Cornwall, part of Newquay Airport.
Virgin Orbit uses an eccentric launch method using a launch vehicle modified from a Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl and a two-stage LauncherOne orbital launch vehicle hidden in Cosmic Girl’s belly.
As soon as Cosmic Girl is at a high enough altitude – about 35,000 feet – LauncherOne launches.
Once at orbital altitude, LauncherOne launches satellites that are catapulted into orbit at 8,000 miles per hour.
Pictured is the LauncherOne rocket. Cornwall Spaceport and Virgin Orbit are confident that the first launch of a British satellite will take place from a site in Cornwall, ahead of Scottish competitors.
Virgin Orbit is a company that is part of the Virgin Group, a conglomerate founded by Richard Branson in 1970. Virgin Orbit was created in 2017 to develop the air-launched LauncherOne rocket launched from the Cosmic Girl space station (previously a Virgin Galactic project).
Over the past 16 months since January 2021, LauncherOne has already deployed in-space payloads for Virgin Orbit customers, including NASA and the US Department of Defense.
Virgin Orbit is a company that is part of the Virgin Group, a conglomerate founded by Richard Branson in 1970.
It was formed in 2017 to develop the LauncherOne air-launched rocket launched from the Cosmic Girl space station (previously a Virgin Galactic project).
MILESTONES IN THE BRITISH SPACE
1952: British space program accepted
1962: Launched the first British-made satellite (NASA from Cape Canaveral, Florida).
1971: British Black Arrow rocket launches Britain’s only Prospero satellite into orbit from a spaceport in Australia
1975: 10 countries, including the UK, found the European Space Agency.
1985: British National Space Center Leicester founded
1991: Sheffield chemist Helen Sharman became the first Briton to go into space.
2003: British lander Beagle 2 launched to Mars
2004: Sir Richard Branson creates a private company, Virgin Galactic.
2016: Tim Peake became the first Briton to walk in outer space
2018: Space Industries Act paves the way for UK spaceports
2022: It is expected that three British spaceports – one in Cornwall and two in Scotland – will be put into operation.