Test flight yields ‘treasure trove’ of data from LauncherOne rocket

Virgin Orbit has a ‘treasure trove’ of data following the company’s launch – and subsequent termination – of its LauncherOne rocket, which has been designed to launch small satellites.

LauncherOne is a 70-foot long carbon-fibre two-stage rocket mated to ‘Cosmic Girl’, a customised 747-400 former passenger aircraft that serves as the company’s ‘flying launch pad.’

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The flight took place on May 25 over the Pacific Ocean just off the California coast.

In a statement, the California-based satellite launch company said it ‘successfully completed all of its pre-launch procedures, the captive carry flight out to the drop site, clean telemetry lock from multiple dishes, a smooth pass through the racetrack, terminal count, and a clean release.’

After being released from Cosmic Girl’, the LauncherOne rocket successfully executed in-air ignition of its booster engine before an anomaly occurred early in first stage flight, leading the mission’s termination.

The crew of Cosmic Girl landed safely at Mojave Air and Space Port, concluding the mission.

“Our team performed their pre-launch and flight operations with incredible skill today. Test flights are instrumented to yield data and we now have a treasure trove of that. We accomplished many of the goals we set for ourselves, though not as many as we would have liked,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “Nevertheless, we took a big step forward today.  Our engineers are already pouring through the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will learn, adjust, and begin preparing for our next test, which is coming up soon.”

Virgin Orbit said its next rocket is in the final stages of integration at its Long Beach manufacturing facility, with six other rockets being readied for subsequent missions.

Once operational, a LauncherOne rocket will be capable of delivering small satellites of up to 500kg into sun-synchronous Low Earth Orbit (LEO).