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Virgin rocket enters orbit for the first time and launches NASA satellites


Private space company Virgin Orbit,The Virgin Group subsidiary of British businessman Richard Branson has tested a small rocket designed to launch small satellites into space. Using an air launch from a specially equipped Boeing 747, Virgin Orbit engineers successfully carried out this test and in addition placed ten NASA satellites into orbit.

Virgin Orbit provides airlaunching space rockets using a modified Boeing 747 aircraft that took off from the Virgin Galactic launch site in the Mojave Desert. Having risen to an altitude of about 10.66 km (35,000 ft), the aircraft dropped the LauncherOne rocket, which later launched its own first stage engines. After going into space and reaching the design point, the process of deploying small satellites began.

Work on air launch of space rocketsVirgin Orbit has been leading since its founding in 2017. An air launch is capable of providing space for small satellites. The main advantage of this method of launching rockets into space is the ability to launch anywhere in the world and the absence of a negative effect of weather on the launch of spacecraft.

Virgin Orbit began flight tests in 2018year. In May 2020, the first attempt was made to launch a spacecraft into space, after an air launch. However, during the tests, the rocket's fuel system failed, and the experiment ended in failure. Virgin Orbit engineers made changes to the fuel delivery scheme and conducted a series of ground tests.

Sunday Launch held Jan 17, 2021The year was successful, the Virgin Orbit rocket reached orbit and the satellites were deployed as planned. In total, 10 NASA satellites were launched into space, in the development of which various universities participated. The tasks of satellites are varied: from the maintenance of other spacecraft, to the removal of space debris that has filled the near-earth orbit.

The mission was originally supposed to start inDecember 2020, however, the coronavirus pandemic has made adjustments to the company's plans - some members of the Virgin Orbit team were quarantined. After several postponements, the start was scheduled for January 17th. Already at 1h30 (MSK) on January 18, the company's rocket reached the calculated point of the orbit and began to deploy satellites.

Source: theverge