Virgin Orbit Unveils LauncherOne Rocket Moves Closer to Test Flights

first_imgCosmic Girl, the first 747 in history that has been converted to launch rockets, will carry LauncherOne up to about 35,000 feet. Once Cosmic Girl is ready, she will pitch upwards to at least 25 degrees, then will release the rocket. LauncherOne will then ignite its thrusters for the flight into space, traveling about 17,500 miles per hour — more than 20 times the speed of sound.During a 2017 panel discussion held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Richard Dalbello, vice president of business development and government affairs for Virgin Galactic, said the estimated price for a LauncherOne mission cost “about $12 million.”According to Virgin Orbit’s website, LauncherOne will operate from a variety of locations independently of traditional launch ranges, and will have the ability to operate through or around weather conditions and other impediments that delay traditional launches.More on Geek.com:Virgin Galactic ‘Weeks’ Away From Space FlightBoston Dynamics’ Robo Dog Gets Its Groove OnNASA to Play Classic Arcade ‘Claw Game’ on Mars Virgin Galactic Gives First Look at Its Luxurious Lounge for Space TouristsVirgin Galactic Reaches Space Again, This Time With First Test Passenger It’s a first date to remember. On Wednesday, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket met ‘Cosmic Girl’ — the modified 747 plane that will carry the rocket under its wing to more than 30,000 feet before LauncherOne engages its thrusters and flies into orbit — for the first time.The “mating” — when LauncherOne was attached to the plane — took place in Long Beach, California, and moves Virgin Orbit closer to launching the rocket into space for its maiden flight early next year. Photos released by Virgin Orbit on Friday show the size of the rocket.LauncherOne rocket attached to Cosmic Girl, a modified 747 plane. (Photo Credit: Virgin Orbit)LauncherOne is 70 feet long and weighs 57,000 pounds, and is designed to carry and launch small satellites of up to 1,100 pounds into orbit. But unlike most rockets which launch from a stationary pad, LauncherOne will be released from beneath an airplane.The 747 was originally designed with the ability to ferry a fifth engine. Virgin Orbit has modified that location on Cosmic Girl, a 747 that used to carry passengers as part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet, to support the rocket. Virgin Orbit also trimmed bout 65,000 pounds off Cosmic Girl, eliminating seats, overhead compartments, and other jetliner features, and built a custom mechanism called a launch pylon that hooks the LauncherOne rocket to the underside of Cosmic Girl’s wing, according to GE Reports.“The team were carrying out the integration check of the rocket with Cosmic Girl to verify mechanical, electrical, software, and dynamics all work together for the first time,” Virgin Orbit owner Richard Branson wrote in a blog post. “It’s an incredibly exciting moment for us, as Virgin Orbit’s first test flights move ever closer.”center_img Stay on targetlast_img read more