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Virgin Orbit successfully launches satellites on first night mission

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Virgin Orbit launched a seven-satellite rocket aboard the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 1:49 a.m. (10:49 a.m. local time) Saturday morning, marking the small satellite launch vehicle’s first successful nighttime mission. The company launched the satellites into low Earth orbit using its Boeing 747 carrier aircraft called Cosmic Girl, which had the LauncherOne rocket attached under one of its wings.

The mission, called Straight Up following a 1988 song by Paula Abdul, seven research satellites were involved as part of NASA’s Space Test Program. Like its previous missions, Virgin Orbit propelled the satellites into space by having Cosmic Girl carry the LauncherOne rocket 35,000 feet above the ground, giving it a head start before the rocket dislodges and launches its payload into orbit. Virgin Orbit initially postponed the mission on Thursday after determining that the rocket propellant temperature was “somewhat out of bounds”.

Virgin Orbit has made a total of five launch attempts, only failing once during its maiden test flight in May 2020. It has been running smoothly since it first entered orbit in January 2021, launching a series of satellites in orbit. Earth in June 2021 and had not yet completed another mission earlier this year. Virgin Orbit’s Straight Up mission is the company’s fourth successful flight to date.

Virgin Orbit is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson and is not to be confused with Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceflight company’s separate arm. The company went public last year through a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) merger. While it has completed all of its launches from Southern California so far, Virgin Orbit plans to take off from Cornwall, England later this year


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