Though Virgin Orbit has been devoting some of its resources to help build ventilators for California’s Emergency Medical Services Authority during the, the company also has big plans for this week, with the first demonstration of its .
LauncherOne is Virgin’s take on an orbital launch system. Rather than blasting off from the ground like, Rocket Lab or other competitors, founder Richard Branson’s concept involves attaching a small rocket to the belly of a modified 747, flying it above 75 percent of Earth’s atmosphere and launching it from there.
Last July,in which a rocket was successfully dropped from Cosmic Girl, a 747 plucked from the Virgin Atlantic fleet, but Launcher One’s NewtonThree first stage engine wasn’t ignited.
The company planned to do a full demonstration launch Sunday, May 24, but a screwy sensor prompted the team to scrub for the day “out of an abundance of caution.”
The company tweeted that the issue should be resolved quickly, which would allow for the launch to still go forward during its backup window on Monday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. PT. The plan is for Cosmic Girl to take off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California and release the LauncherOne rocket over the Pacific Ocean. After a few seconds of free fall, the rocket’s engine will ignite in midair for the first time and head toward low earth orbit.
There won’t be a livestream of the demonstration, but CNET will keep you posted on how it goes and post footage as soon as it’s over.
The launch comes at a busy time for Virgin Orbit, which has been working on producing ventilators for use in California during the coronavirus pandemic.
If Monday’s demonstration launch goes well, the company will begin prepping for its first paid launch, a collaboration between NASA and universities to launch small satellites. That launch could happen as soon as June 29.