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Readying For History: LauncherOne Arrives In Mojave

Virgin Orbit Repositions Vehicle For Launch Demo 2 Mission

Virgin Orbit has posted an update in which they detail the efforts to initiate their pre-launch operations phase for the Launch Demo 2 mission.

At last report, the Launch Demo 2 rocket was in the midst of final integration on the shop floor, with the VO team working to incorporate the upgraded NewtonThree engine that will power LauncherOne’s main stage. As expected, they were able to take advantage of the lessons learned from the previous LauncherOne and finish all that work in short order. With LauncherOne buttoned up from nose to tail, they hit the road again to transport the rocket up to Mojave Air and Space Port.

LauncherOne left the factory in Long Beach early last Wednesday morning, and was fully mated to the carrier aircraft by around 10 A.M. the next day. Now, out at the end of a taxiway in Mojave, a familiar sight has begun to take shape. The trailers that serve as the transportable ground equipment have been set up on the tarmac. Just a few feet away, sits parked, the carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl, with LauncherOne nestled safely underwing. What was a bare concrete pad just days ago, they now describe as a "complete launch site."

Additionally, all 10 of the payloads that will fly onboard LauncherOne are now safely encapsulated in their dispensers, and will travel up to Mojave separately in a mobile payload cleanroom. Consistent with normal operations flow, they will mate the payload fairing to the rocket just before the final launch rehearsal. As the launch date approaches, they will pull that payload trailer adjacent to Cosmic Girl and mate the fairing to the rocket while it is attached to the aircraft. "This is all excellent practice for our team, as the process will be exactly the same for future missions from other planned launch sites like in the UK, Guam and Japan," notes VO.

Before that final mate happens, they are planning yet another round of checkouts for the flight hardware, including full-up wet dress rehearsals.

As they progress through cryogenic testing, they will announce a specific launch window, which is currently projected to occur before the end of the year. The team has done a commendable job in digesting knowledge acquired from Launch Demo 1 to better inform work for Launch Demo 2, implementing a series of hardware upgrades and performing a rigorous suite of major tests.

"We’ve done a hell of a lot these past few months as we worked to improve our probability for success, including modifications to our main engine assembly, the hot-fire and vibration testing of our engines, cryoload tests, full system check-outs, aircraft inspection, flight software qualification, and more. And what’s remarkable is we’ve done all this in the context of a global pandemic."

With only weeks left on the countdown clock to Launch Demo 2, we look forward to seeing LauncherOne fly again.




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