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Virgin Orbit Completes Second Captured Carry Test Flight

Increased Altitude To 35,000 Feet

Virgin Orbit has completed a second test flight with its modified Boeing 747 Galactic Girl carrying a LauncherOne booster slung under the wing.

The company posted a message on LinkedIn announcing the flight. "Just two weeks after hashtag#LauncherOne left the ground for the first time, we’re back in the air again — this time higher, better, faster (and cooler!). Over the weekend, we completed the second leg of our captive carry test flight campaign, piloting Cosmic Girl to real-mission altitude at 35,000 ft and clocking in speeds around Mach 0.9 (that’s nearly 700 miles per hour).

"Our pilots and engineers agreed the flight was yet another major success. On to the next one."

In a news release following the first test flight last month, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart described the flight as “picture-perfect ... and a major step forward in our quest to bring a new capability to small satellite launch,” took place in Victorville, California — a test facility close both to Virgin Orbit’s Long Beach factory and to one of its operational launch sites, the Mojave Air and Space Port. The flight lasted 80 minutes in total, during which Virgin Orbit’s flight crew assessed the take-off, landing, and low-speed handling and performance of the integrated system.

“The vehicles flew like a dream today,” said Virgin Orbit Chief Pilot Kelly Latimer (Lt. Col, US Air Force, Ret.) following that initial flight. “Everyone on the flight crew and all of our colleagues on the ground were extremely happy with the data we saw from the instruments on-board the aircraft, in the pylon, and on the rocket itself. From my perspective in the cockpit, the vehicles handled incredibly well, and perfectly matched what we’ve trained for in the simulators.”

The company will conduct several more flights of its 747-400, some with a LauncherOne rocket attached and some without. With mountains of data already collected about the smooth handling of the system, future tests will focus on further proving out the robustness of the company’s modified 747, the carbon-fiber rocket itself, and the performance of the cutting-edge, lightweight avionics and flight computers onboard the rocket. This portion of the extensive testing regime will conclude with a drop test, during which a rocket will be released from Cosmic Girl — without igniting — generating critical data about Cosmic Girl’s and the rocket’s performance as it freefalls through the atmosphere.

(Image from LinkedIn post)

FMI: www.virginorbit.com

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