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Mon, Jan 17, 2022

Virgin Orbit's Above the Clouds Mission Successful

Once Again Proves Utility of Air-Launch as Quick Option As Last-Minute Payload Delivered Successfully

The most recent satellite launch from Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket has successfully deployed all 7 of its assigned customer satellites after a flawless launch on January 13.

The Boeing 747 mothership Cosmic Girl took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port to a launch site over the Pacific before detaching the rocket. LauncherOne successfully ignited and launched into space, delivering its payload into a precise target orbit just over 300 miles in orbit.

The mission is the 3rd for the company, quickly on its way to establishing a successful track record of orbital equipment placement for clients around the world. The mission had a few notable 'firsts' on the mission, including the first time a "last-minute ticket" was sold due to prior customers forgoing their slot. Another first: Virgin Orbit repeat customers. The US Department of Defense Space Test Program and Polish company SatRevolution jointly carried the honor of sending up their second payload with the company. The mission's deliveries included satellites geared at developing space-based communication, agricultural survey, hydropropulsion, and space debris mapping. 

Virgin notes that their air-launched system allowed Above the Clouds to use a never-before-flown trajectory unachievable from traditional terrestrial launch systems. The direct placement into the target orbit, the company says,  saved each client months of mission time and large quantities of fuel they otherwise could have spent correcting their orbit from the baseline given by a traditional launch.

“Our customers are starting to hear back from their satellites that are checking in from orbit --- and for us, that’s what success looks like. It’s a thrill for our team that this mission included our first repeat customers as well as our first ‘last minute ticket’ customers and reached an orbit that no one had ever reached from the West Coast before, all of which confirms the team’s ability to provide top tier launch service anywhere, anytime,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “On top of that, we flew through weather and a cloud layer that would have grounded any other launch I’ve worked on in my career, something only made possible by air-launch and our incredible team. We can say with confidence that in this new era of regular, frequent, successful missions, we can help our customers and partners use space technology to advance human knowledge and open space for good.”

FMI: www.virginorbit.com

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