Virgin Orbit, the arm of Virgin Galactic that focuses solely on launching small payloads into orbit, completed a milestone, as it managed to reach orbit for the first time. The mission, which was orchestrated with the help of Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl, carried a small number of satellites into low Earth orbit on behalf of NASA. With this successful launch, the company is all set to start commercial launches and dominate the space industry.
Our favorite rocket is orbiting our favorite planet! No sweeter feeling. pic.twitter.com/bIPmUMW316
— Virgin Orbit (@Virgin_Orbit) January 18, 2021
The Cosmic Girl (which is a modified Boeing 747) took off at around 2 PM EDT, releasing the company’s trademark LaunchOne rocket at 2:40 PM EDT. From there, the rocket ascended to low earth orbit. Once it reached its destination, the engines cut off, and the payload was ejected, marking a successful launch.
With this, Virgin Orbit becomes the latest name in the space industry to become mission ready, and provide commercial services to clients all around the world . This was the company’s second attempt at reaching orbit, after a failsafe initiated an automatic shutdown during a launch in late May 2020. The company says that it learnt from that experience, and fixed the issue that caused the failsafe to activate.
Virgin Orbit stands to become a key player in the space industry, which is dominated by SpaceX. The Elon Musk led company has recently launched 100s of satellites into low earth orbit as part of its Starlink missions, and has also bagged various NASA contracts. However, Virgin’s offering, which allows missions to take off from any traditional runway, can become a challenge for SpaceX, as it will vastly increase the amount of favorable launch sites (possible reducing costs as well).
Virgin plans to open up space for everyone, and start offering commercial services in the near future. The company says that it plans to conduct more than 20 launches per year, and provide first-class service at a fair cost.