After postponing the launch originally scheduled for Wednesday, Virgin Orbit successfully delivered seven satellites into orbit early this morning following Friday night’s launch of its “Straight Up” mission, the company said.
The US Space Force purchased the launch from the Rocket Systems Launch Program, with payloads provided by the Department of Defense Space Test Program. Among the payload was Lonestar, a tactical space support vehicle developed by Dynetics for the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
Other spacecraft delivered to orbit include two CubeSats for NASA’s ELaNa 39 mission. One satellite will monitor the sun’s energy input to the top of the Earth’s atmosphere, while the other will test GPS for future SmallSat assembly, docking and formation flying missions in orbit.
Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl took off from Mojave Air and Spaceport Friday at 10:50 p.m. local time, marking the company’s first-ever nighttime operation. The aircraft then traveled several hundred kilometers before dropping the LauncherOne system over the Pacific Ocean.
At 12:55 a.m. today, the firm successfully delivered its payloads into orbit approximately 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface at an inclination of 45 degrees. LauncherOne was the first – and remains the only – system capable of reaching this orbit from the West Coast.
While the launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, Virgin Orbit pulled out when the rocket’s propellant temperature was not optimal.
“Straight Up” is the first of three missions included in a Space Force contract awarded to Virgin Orbit in April 2020.
The mission is named after American singer Paula Abdul’s breakthrough song, “Straight Up”, which was released on her 1988 debut album “Forever Your Girl”, released by Virgin Records. “Straight Up” was the Long Beach company’s fourth successful mission since its inception in 2017.
Virgin Orbit has delivered a total of 33 satellites into orbit and has a 100% mission success rate.
The firm is currently preparing a mission in collaboration with the UK Space Agency, the Royal Air Force and Space Port Cornwall. The mission will mark Virgin Orbit’s first international launch and will be the first orbital launch for UK soil.