Sir Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Orbit, conducted a successful test drop of an unpowered LauncherOne rocket on Wednesday, July 10, over California’s Mojave Desert near the Mojave Air & Space Port.
The test is the latest step in Virgin Orbit’s goal to offer an affordable, small payload orbital launch capability to both commercial and government contract customers.
The Virgin Orbit LauncherOne project is one of many recent commercial space launch projects, not all of which have succeeded.
Branson’s Virgin Orbit LauncherOne may be a more practical approach to short lead-time, low cost orbital launches.
Boosting a payload into orbit using Virgin Orbit and LauncherOne may cost as little as $12M USD per mission.
Virgin Orbit has not said when the next phase of testing, to include launching a powered LauncherOne into orbit from the 747-400 launch plane, will take place, but reports suggest it will happen soon.
Virgin Orbit has confirmed the operational rocket for the first powered air launch has “already undergone extensive testing”.