Virgin Orbit is set to launch a payload that includes satellites it’s delivering for tis first commercial customers. The launch is set to happen sometime within a launch window that opens at 6 AM PT (9 AM ET) and continues through 8 AM PT (11 AM ET), taking off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
This is the first mission following Virgin Orbit’s successful orbital demonstration launch in January, and also the first that the company will be live-streaming, providing never-before-seen views of its carrier aircraft and the mid-air launch of its LauncherOne two-stage rocket as they happen. Virgin Orbit’s launch system uses a modified 747 to carry its small rocket to a high altitude, where it releases the rocket from the aircraft’s wing, which then ignites its own engines and flies the rest of the way to its destination in low-Earth orbit (LEO).
Virgin’s approach is very different from the traditional vertical rocket launch employed by companies like SpaceX and Rocket Lab, and after years of testing and development, the company opened the door for commercial operations with its demonstration launch earlier this year. As it ramps operations, it’s hoping that its launch model will demonstrate flexibility, since it can launch from almost any traditional runway, while meeting all the needs of small satellite companies looking to get their spacecraft to LEO.
The launch livestream above is set to begin at around 5:30 AM PT (8:30 AM ET).