Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launches first rocket into space

Virgin Orbit is finally living up to its name.

British billionaire Richard Branson’s satellite-launching company successfully sent a rocket into space for the first time Sunday, following a failed attempt last year.

The California-based firm’s LauncherOne rocket flew into Earth’s orbit from over the Pacific Ocean and dropped off 10 satellites for NASA’s Launch Services Program, the company said.

The two-stage rocket was attached to the bottom of a customized 747-400 jet named “Cosmic Girl,” and then released from the plane in midair before igniting and making its way to space, according to the company.

“Virgin Orbit has achieved something many thought impossible,” Branson — who’s worth about $6.1 billion, according to Bloomberg — said in a news release announcing the successful launch.

“This magnificent flight is the culmination of many years of hard work and will also unleash a whole new generation of innovators on the path to orbit.”

Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit successfully launched into space on January 17, 2021.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit successfully launched into space on January 17, 2021.
REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The launch marked a win for Virgin Orbit after it aborted an earlier test run last May soon after its rocket was released from the jet. The company said the failed mission still generated a trove of data.

Virgin Orbit was spun off in 2017 from Virgin Galactic, the company Branson founded to ferry tourists into space.

Executives contend that its midair launches allow satellites to be dropped into their intended orbit more efficiently — and aren’t as prone to weather-related cancellations — than launches performed from a pad on the ground.

A Virgin Orbit subsidiary called VOX Space LLC is selling launches to the US military. A mission is set to launch in October under a $35 million, three-mission contract with the US Space Force.

With Post wires