Virgin Orbit Progressing Toward First LauncherOne Drop Test

LauncherOne attached to Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The LauncherOne test program is moving really quickly now in the run-up to our first orbital test flight, as we finalize integration of the test rocket (more on that below) and continue to bang out flight test after flight test. With three successful heavyweight flights now under our belt, we’re soaring higher than a moonsault off the top rope!

Right now, we’re focused on nailing down the mission profile for the upcoming drop test. During our most recent sortie, Chief Test Pilot Kelly Latimer and her crew knocked out not just one but three simulated releases (and still had time to give a quick hello to Sir Richard over comms).

Richard Branson talks to the pilots of Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

We even completed an extra takeoff and landing to demonstrate the system’s performance in higher crosswinds, allowing us to expand our window for acceptable flight conditions.

We also added a bit of fun and funky flair to that flight with a striking new paint job on LauncherOne. The new design on the fin cans was inspired by dazzle camouflage, and pays homage to the way art and technology can come together to create something beautiful.

Rocket #2 Debut

LauncherOne first flight rocket (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Round 2 is going to be where this match really heats up! Although the captive carry test rocket that’s currently on Cosmic Girl has been stealing the spotlight, our first orbital test flight rocket has been busy backstage preparing for its own grand entrance.

As you can see above, we’ve got a fully integrated first stage and a fully integrated upper stage sitting side-by-side on our shop floor. But it’s not as simple as putting the two halves together and sending them off to space. First, we’ll put the rocket and Cosmic Girl through a rigorous check-out campaign called R2D2 (Rocket #2 Drills and Demonstrations), to ensure that our processes, procedures and people are aligned across the flight ops and launch ops teams.

Stay tuned for more info as we move into this final test sequence before first launch!