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Artykuły o Virgin Orbit
« dnia: Lipiec 13, 2019, 04:26 »
Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
July 10, 2019 Stephen Clark


A full-scale mock-up of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket falls away from a modified Boeing 747 carrier jet Wednesday over the Mojave Desert of California. Credit: Virgin Orbit

A full-scale model of Virgin Orbit’s air-dropped small satellite launcher, filled with water and antifreeze instead of rocket fuel, fell away from the wing of a modified Boeing 747 carrier jet Wednesday and impacted on a test range at Edwards Air Force Base in California, a key test that paves the way for the company’s first space mission later this year.

Backed by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, Virgin Orbit aims to carve out a slice of the growing small satellite launch market alongside Rocket Lab and other companies.

Wednesday’s drop test was the last major milestone in Virgin Orbit’s test program, signaling the start of a transition from rocket development to launch operations, according to Dan Hart, the company’s CEO.

“We have a very happy team up here in Mojave,” Hart told Spaceflight Now after Wednesday’s test. “The flight crew was just grins when they got off the airplane, and there are a lot of high-fives and hugs going on here.”

Established in 2017 as a spinoff from Virgin Galactic, Branson’s suborbital space tourism company, Virgin Orbit plans to base its early missions from Mojave Air and Space Port in California, then branch out to other airports. Future LauncherOne staging bases could be located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Cornwall Airport Newquay in southwest England, Taranto-Grottaglie Airport in Italy, a location in Guam, and an airport in Japan.

Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, named “Cosmic Girl,” took off from Mojave on Wednesday morning and climbed to 35,000 feet (nearly 10,700 meters). Pilots Kelly Latimer and Todd Ericson pointed the jumbo jet upward at an angle of more than 25 degrees, then commanded the release of the LauncherOne vehicle from a pylon under the 747’s left wing around 9:13 a.m. PDT (12:13 p.m. EDT; 1613 GMT), mimicking maneuvers they will execute during a real launch.

Four Virgin Orbit engineers were also aboard the carrier jet Wednesday.


Cytuj
Virgin Orbit@Virgin_Orbit · Jul 10, 2019
Oh, and by the way, we've already started work on the next rocket, and the one after that, and the one after that too.  END THREAD


Now THAT’s what I call a drop test! Video from today’s very successful drop test of our #LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle. More photos and videos coming soon.
Twitter

On an actual mission, the two-stage LauncherOne vehicle will be filled with liquid rocket propellants. For Wednesday’s test, ground crews loaded the tanks with water and antifreeze to simulate the propellant, giving the rocket a weight of about 57,000 pounds (about 26 metric tons).

Engineers planned the drop test to gather data on the aerodynamic loads the carrier aircraft will experience when it sheds the nearly 30-ton rocket. Virgin Orbit also wanted to observe how the instrumented LauncherOne test vehicle performed in the first few seconds after release.

Reports from the 747 flight crew, and a quick-look review of video and telemetry data, suggested everything worked perfectly Wednesday.

The drop test was the culmination of a series of captive carry test flights since November with the inert LauncherOne vehicle under the 747 carrier jet, a former passenger airliner operated by sister company Virgin Atlantic. Ground crews stripped around 30 tons of weight and passenger seats from the airplane to allow it to haul the LauncherOne rocket aloft.

“It’s been a long and hard flight test program, as flight test programs often are, and this is our capstone event, so we’re pretty happy about it,” Hart said. “The system performed really, really well.”

“The whole flight went incredibly well,” said Latimer, Virgin Orbit’s chief test pilot, in a statement. “The release was extremely smooth, and the rocket fell away nicely. There was a small roll with the aircraft, just as we expected. Everything matched what we’d seen in the simulators well — in fact, the release dynamics and the aircraft handling qualities were both better than we expected. This was the best kind of test flight sortie from a test pilot’s perspective — an uneventful one.”

Virgin Orbit intended the drop test as a full-up practice run to gain confidence as engineers head into the company’s first launch campaign.

“Except for the geography — we flew over Edwards — everything else was an exact mission simulation, including having our ground tracking and S-band (telemetry system) going with all the data transmitting,” Hart said. “We had a guidance system operating so we could fully understand how the vehicle was operating on the way down.”

During LauncherOne’s first orbital mission, the carrier aircraft will depart Mojave and head over the Pacific Ocean to release the rocket, which will ignite moments later to climb into space.

The 70-foot-long (21-meter) two-stage LauncherOne vehicle is designed to propel payloads of up to 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) into a low-altitude equatorial orbit, or up to 661 pounds (300 kilograms) to a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) sun-synchronous polar orbit.

Virgin Orbit is selling LauncherOne missions for around $12 million, and has already cinched contracts with NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and several commercial customers.


Drop test signals Virgin Orbit’s transition into launch operations

The next time “Cosmic Girl” takes to the skies with a rocket, it will carry aloft a space-worthy version of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, a vehicle now being assembled inside the company’s factory in Long Beach, California.

“This was really the last big non-mission demonstration test, so starting this afternoon, we’re in pre-launch mode,” Hart said Wednesday.

If everything goes according to plan, Hart said LauncherOne could launch into orbit by the end of the summer,

Engineers finished a series of hold-down engine firings in May to qualify the rocket’s propulsion systems for flight.

The NewtonThree engine on the first stage will generate 73,500 pounds of thrust in vacuum, firing for around three minutes on each mission. The second stage’s NewtonFour engine will ramp up to 5,000 pounds of thrust, and can be reignited in space to maneuver into different orbits.





At Virgin Orbit’s Long Beach factory, technicians are finishing assembly of the first LauncherOne vehicle to fire into space. They plan to mate the rocket’s two stages later this month, officials said, then hand over the launcher to Virgin Orbit’s operations team.

The rocket will trucked to Mojave for attachment to the “Cosmic Girl” jumbo jet.

“We have a rocket in the factory,” Hart said. “It’s integrated. It’s been through some of the more complex integrated system checkouts. We’ve still got a little ways to go, but if everything goes well, we’ll have it delivered, and we’ll start doing wet dress rehearsals, and the kinds of things you do before you actually launch a rocket for the first time.”

The wet dress rehearsals will involve filling the rocket with cryogenic fluid for the first time to practice fueling operations.

“Part of our first flight campaign will be to take our flight rocket and do one flight test with cryogenics on-board before launch,” Hart said. “We plan to use liquid nitrogen, so we don’t have our first time with cryogenics with liquid oxygen. That’s the way we kind of ease into that first flight.”

Unlike Northrop Grumman’s air-launched Pegasus rocket, which burns pre-packed solid propellant, the liquid-fueled LauncherOne vehicle will rely on cryogenic liquid oxygen chilled colder than minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 183 degrees Celsius).

The LauncherOne engines will consume liquid oxygen in a mixture with rocket-grade kerosene.



Virgin Orbit’s first LauncherOne vehicle to head into space is completing final assembly in Long Beach, California. Credit: Virgin Orbit

Cryogenic fluids boil off if they get too warm. Rockets launched from the ground typically have their cryogenic propellant supplies continuously replenished until just before liftoff to ensure the tanks are full, but LauncherOne will be disconnected from its propellant supply before takeoff.

LauncherOne’s liquid oxygen tanks are coated with spray-on foam insulation to keep the cryogenic fluid insulated during the climb to the rocket’s release altitude.

“Boil-off has been a focus, but we’ve got the system balanced with the right kind of insulation to where that’s not an issue,” Hart said.

Virgin Orbit’s first test launch could happen in the next two months, Hart told Spaceflight Now on Wednesday.

“If all goes well — and we do have some data to look at and some more testing to do — we’re targeting (a launch) before the end of the summer,” Hart said.

There are no customer satellites on the first LauncherOne mission to orbit.

“It’ll be an engineering test,” Hart said. “We’ll have a payload because we do want to verify payload activities, as well as our payload operations, but it’s an engineering payload, essentially, for the flight test.”


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/07/10/drop-test-moves-virgin-orbit-closer-to-first-satellite-launch/
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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #1 dnia: Marzec 21, 2020, 20:37 »
Virgin Orbit to add extra rocket stage to LauncherOne for interplanetary missions
by Caleb Henry — October 24, 2019 [SN]


Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket mated to the company's Cosmic Girl plane during tests in October 2018. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit, while preparing for the first flight of its LauncherOne smallsat rocket, is in the process of choosing an engine for a three-stage variant that would be capable of sending payloads to other planets.

John Fuller, Virgin Orbit advanced concepts director, said the company is deciding between three “highly energetic third stage” options for LauncherOne that would enable the rocket to launch up to 50 kilograms to Mars or 70 kilograms to Venus. The “Exploration 3-Stage Variant” of LauncherOne would also have the ability to launch around 100 kilograms to the moon or toward Lagrange points, he said.

“What we do is we take that third stage and bring the overall impulse of the vehicle up to a point where we can reach very high energies to launch to cis-lunar, interplanetary or even asteroid targets,” Fuller said Oct. 24 at the 70th International Astronautical Congress here.

LauncherOne is a two-stage liquid-propellent rocket Virgin Orbit plans to launch from the wing of a modified Boeing 747 aircraft. The rocket is designed to launch 300 to 500 kilograms to low Earth orbit, with the exact amount determined by orbital inclination.

Virgin Orbit still anticipates completing the maiden flight of its normal two-stage LauncherOne rocket this year, Fuller said. A “very large contingent” of Virgin Orbit staff are in Mojave, California, right now preparing the first rocket, he said. They will attach the rocket to Cosmic Girl, Virgin Orbit’s structurally enhanced Boeing 747, and will run it through a series of “wet dress rehearsals” where the rocket is fueled up but not launched, before conducting the actual mission, he said.

Fuller estimated Virgin Orbit will choose a third stage for LauncherOne in “the next month or two.” Pacing that decision is a Mars mission Virgin Orbit plans to launch for Polish satellite manufacturer SatRevolution in the third quarter of 2022, he said.

Virgin Orbit announced forming a consortium with SatRevolution and close to a dozen Polish universities Oct. 9 aimed at conducting the first commercial smallsat mission to Mars.

Fuller said Virgin Orbit would reveal pricing for interplanetary missions soon.


Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-to-add-extra-rocket-stage-to-launcherone-for-interplanetary-missions/

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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #2 dnia: Marzec 21, 2020, 20:38 »
Virgin Orbit working toward first launch, schedule reassessed amid pandemic
by Sandra Erwin — March 19, 2020 [SN]


The LauncherOne that Virgin Orbit will use for its first orbital launch attempt is now in Mojave, California, for final tests. Credit: Virgin Orbit

LauncherOne rockets, made in Long Beach, California, will be air-launched from a modified 747-400 “Cosmic Girl” carrier aircraft.

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit is reassessing the schedule for the first orbital flight demonstration of its LauncherOne vehicle, which had been scheduled for April.

“We’re mindful that COVID-19 is putting added burdens and stresses on our teams and leaders, so we are assessing things daily and keeping momentum up as best we can while doing everything we can to protect the health of our people,” Virgin Orbit spokesman Kendall Russell told SpaceNews March 19 in a statement.

“This is all taking place at the most critical phase of our prelaunch operations,” said Russell. “We’re moving aggressively to protect our team and our families, and we’re monitoring the situation closely.”

Like most businesses, Virgin Orbit has a large portion of its workforce telecommuting. “At present, we’ve been able to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for the crews who need to be physically on site in order to advance our launch campaign,” said Russell.

LauncherOne rockets, made in Long Beach, California, will be air-launched from a modified 747-400 “Cosmic Girl” carrier aircraft. The vehicle is being offered to government and commercial customers as a flexible launch service that can operate from locations around the world.

The company earlier this month performed a taxi test at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It was a taxi test of the aircraft with a liquid-fueled LauncherOne vehicle attached to it, said Mandy Vaughn, president of Virgin Orbit’s sister company VOX Space. The next step before the orbital launch will be a captive carry test flight with the rocket attached to the plane.

VOX Space, headquartered in El Segundo, California, provides small satellite launch services to the U.S. government.

Later in the year Virgin Orbit plans to conduct its first military launch for the U.S. Space Force from Guam, in the Western Pacific.

Before it flies the DoD mission, Virgin Orbit has to complete the test flight, a launch for NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services program and several commercial launches for undisclosed customers, Vaughn told SpaceNews.

Vaughn said LauncherOne can fly from almost any runway. The current carrier aircraft is a passenger jet but in the future the company might consider modifying a freighter plane that could transport the launcher vehicle to the launch location. “That could open up other con-ops [concepts of operations] to ship equipment around the world,” said Vaughn.

For the launch from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, “we’re leveraging no infrastructure from the base itself other than the runway and the allocated piece of tarmac where we can load the rocket and service the rocket,” Vaughn said.

Guam is a desirable launch site for many reasons, she said. “Rather than having to fly out of Florida and perform a big dog leg maneuver to be able to get to an equatorial orbit, we’d rather just fly the airplane to the right latitude and launch.” Guam is a “great low inclination launch site for commercial and DoD missions.”


Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-working-toward-first-launch-schedule-reassessed-amid-pandemic/

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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #3 dnia: Marzec 21, 2020, 20:54 »
Virgin Orbit’s space launch business deemed ‘essential service,’ work allowed to continue at Long Beach
by Sandra Erwin — March 21, 2020 [SN]


Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket and carrier aircraft. Credit: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit spokesman: “Unavoidably, this will have some impact on our launch date, and on the launches that immediately follow."

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit announced March 20 that it will continue operations at its facility in Long Beach, California, after state officials categorized the work as an essential service that should not be completely shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 19, California, Los Angeles County and Long Beach issued a series of “Safer at Home” orders that closed all non-essential businesses and requires most of the state’s 40 million inhabitants to stay at home until further notice. The city, county, and state orders provide exemptions for certain businesses and industries deemed essential services.

“In conversations with our representatives, we have learned that our work of developing and operating our flexible, responsive space launch system for our customers, including those at NASA and in the U.S. Department of Defense, has been deemed as one such essential service, and that therefore we have been exempted from many of the “Safer At Home” shelter in place restrictions,” Virgin Orbit Kendall Russell said in a statement.

“We take that responsibility seriously, and we will continue our essential work with fierce determination and perseverance,” the statement said.

To prevent the spread of the virus, Virgin Orbit will be sending all employees home for the next week except a “small crew necessary to assure the safety and security of the facility,” said Russell. “Those employees who can do their work remotely will do so; and those who cannot work remotely will still be paid in full.”

Amid the pandemic, Virgin Orbit is reassessing the schedule for the first orbital flight demonstration of its LauncherOne vehicle, which had been scheduled for April.

LauncherOne rockets, made in Long Beach, will be air-launched from a modified 747-400 “Cosmic Girl” carrier aircraft. The vehicle intends to provide government and commercial customers a flexible launch service that can operate from locations around the world.

“Unavoidably, this will have some impact on our launch date, and on the launches that immediately follow,” Russell said. But because of the “essential services” classification from local, state, and federal governments, “we are working to minimize that disruption while ensuring the health of our team.”


Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbits-space-launch-business-deemed-essential-service-work-allowed-to-continue-at-long-beach/

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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #3 dnia: Marzec 21, 2020, 20:54 »

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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #4 dnia: Kwiecień 14, 2020, 12:56 »
Virgin Orbit completes final major test before first LauncherOne flight
by Jeff Foust — April 12, 2020 [SN]


Virgin Orbit's "Cosmic Girl" 747 aircraft, with a LauncherOne rocket attached, performs a final captive carry flight April 12 before the company's first orbital launch attempt. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit completed a captive carry test flight of its LauncherOne system April 12, the final major milestone before the company performs its first orbital launch attempt.

The company’s modified Boeing 747 aircraft, with a LauncherOne rocket attached to its left wing, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 2:23 p.m. Eastern. The plan flew out over the Pacific Ocean south of Santa Barbara to simulate a launch before returning back to Mojave, with the rocket still attached, about two hours later.

Virgin Orbit had performed captive carry test flights in the past, but this was the first with a flight version of LauncherOne, filled with RP-1 fuel and liquid nitrogen, attached. During the flight, the plane tested the launch release maneuver, where the plane pulls up sharply after releasing the rocket.

In an April 10 statement, Virgin Orbit described then-upcoming flight as a “a complete, end-to-end launch rehearsal” of the aircraft and ground operations, with the exception of using liquid nitrogen, a safer alternative to the liquid oxygen propellant used for LauncherOne. That test, the company said, was also “the last major step prior to our Launch Demo,” or first orbital launch attempt.

Virgin Orbit had planned to carry out the captive carry flight earlier this year, but was delayed in part by the coronavirus pandemic. While among the many space companies considered “essential” by government agencies and thus allowed to remain open, Virgin Orbit sent its staff home with pay for a week last month both to allow them to deal with the dislocations caused by the pandemic as well as to adjust its procedures to allow for on-site operations to continue safely.

That work, Virgin Orbit said in the earlier statement, included reconfiguring its mission control center and rewriting procedures on the shop floor to comply with recommended physical distancing. It is also more frequently cleaning workspaces and increasing use of personal protective equipment. Even with those changes, the company estimates that up to 90% of its employees are still working remotely.

The captive carry test is the last major test before the company’s first launch attempt. “Of course, we’ll first pore over the data from this captive carry flight, and we’ll run through a few last rehearsals, giving the team a few additional chances to practice their jobs with our new COVID-19 procedures in place,” the company stated. “But the Launch Demo will be squarely in our sights.”

Virgin Orbit didn’t state exactly how long it would be before that orbital launch attempt could take place. Previously, company officials estimated they would be ready for the launch as soon as a couple weeks after the captive carry test flight.


Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-completes-final-major-test-before-first-launcherone-flight/

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Virgin Orbit schedules its first orbital test launch this weekend
May 21, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]


A full-scale mock-up of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket falls away from a modified Boeing 747 carrier jet during an inert drop test in July 2019 over the Mojave Desert of California. Credit: Virgin Orbit

The first orbital test flight of Virgin Orbit’s privately-developed air-launched rocket is scheduled as soon as Sunday off the coast of Southern California, the company said Wednesday.

Designed to deliver small satellites into orbit, the LauncherOne vehicle has a four-hour window Sunday opening at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT; 1700 GMT) to head into space after release from the belly of Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. A backup launch opportunity is available at the same time Monday.

“We will only proceed with the mission if all conditions for launch are nominal,” Virgin Orbit said in a press kit for the demonstration flight. “Although air-launched systems like ours are less vulnerable to bad weather than fixed ground-launch systems, we’ll be watching the weather closely and being cautious for this maiden flight.”

Virgin Orbit announced the target launch date Wednesday as the company nears the final phase of an eight-year development effort that began as a spinoff of sister company Virgin Galactic, which focuses on the suborbital space tourism market.

Both companies are part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. The LauncherOne vehicle aims to become the first liquid-fueled air-launched rocket to reach orbit.

Virgin Galactic says it first studied the LauncherOne concept in 2007, and development began in earnest in 2012. Engineers in 2015 scrapped initial plans to drop the rocket from Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, and kicked off development of a redesigned system using a 747 jumbo jet taken from Virgin Atlantic’s commercial airline fleet.

Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Virgin Orbit was established in 2017 as a spinoff of Virgin Galactic.

“This Launch Demo marks the apex of a five-year-long development program,” Virgin Orbit said in a statement. “On our journey to open up space for everyone, we’ve conducted hundreds of hotfires of our engines and our rocket stages, performed two dozen test flights with our carrier aircraft, and conducted countless other tests of every bit of the system we could test on the ground.”

In the last six weeks, Virgin Orbit completed a captive carry test of the LauncherOne rocket. Teams filled the vehicle with kerosene fuel and cryogenic liquid nitrogen, a stand-in for liquid oxygen used as an oxidizer during a real launch, and the 747 carrier aircraft — named “Cosmic Girl” — took off from Virgin Orbit’s flight operations base at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Virgin Orbit exercised propellant loading, takeoff, tracking and telemetry, and return-to-base procedures during the captive carry test April 12. The company completed additional rehearsals on the ground in recent weeks, practicing filling and draining the rocket’s supply of kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Now the rocket is ready to fly, Virgin Orbit said this week.



Virgin Orbit’s rocket carrier aircraft sits near the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, where teams will fill the LauncherOne vehicle with liquid propellants before takeoff. Credit: Virgin Orbit

Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit’s CEO, told Spaceflight Now last month the LauncherOne’s first flight will carry some “test payloads” the company developed. He said Virgin Orbit will release details about the payloads on the inaugural launch at a later time.

Hart characterized the first flight as “an engineering test.”

“Of course, we would love it to get to orbit,” Hart told Spaceflight Now. “The more of the system that we can exercise, the more confidence that we’ll have for the next flight. We do know, and we’re mindful, that a first flight is not without risk.”

“We’re mindful of the fact that for the governments and companies who have preceded us in developing spaceflight systems, maiden flights have statistically ended in failure about half of the time,” Virgin Orbit said in a statement Wednesday.

“In the future, the goal of our launches will be to deploy satellites for a new generation of space-based services,” the company said. “For this Launch Demo, though, our goal is to safely learn as much as possible and prove out the LauncherOne system we’ve worked so hard to design, build, test and operate.”

Piloted by Kelly Latimer, Virgin Orbit’s chief test pilot, the 747 carrier aircraft will line up for its launch run west of San Nicolas Island, which is owned by the U.S. Navy. The targeted drop point is located roughly 100 miles (160 kilometers) west-southwest of Long Beach.

Latimer will command the airplane onto climb angle of more than 25 degrees. The nearly 30-ton rocket will be released from a pylon under the 747’s left wing during the pull-up maneuver at an altitude of around 35,000 feet (nearly 10,700 meters).

Around five seconds after release, the rocket’s kerosene-fueled NewtonThree engine will ignite with 73,500 pounds of thrust to begin climbing into orbit.

“The instant our NewtonThree engine ignites, we will have done something no one has ever done before — lighting an orbital-class, liquid-fueled, horizontally-launched vehicle in flight,” Virgin Orbit said.

“We’ll continue the mission for as long as we can,” the company said. “The longer LauncherOne flies, the more data we’ll be able to collect. Should we defy the historical odds and become one of those exceedingly rare teams to complete a mission on first attempt, we will deploy a test payload into an orbit, take our data, and then quickly de-orbit so as not to clutter the heavens.”

If everything goes as Virgin Orbit hopes, the company intends to restart the second stage’s NewtonFour engine once in space, validating the rocket’s ability to deliver payloads to different orbits on the same mission.

The mission profile for the first LauncherOne flight lasts 32 minutes from the time of the rocket’s release from the “Cosmic Girl” jumbo jet until separation of its payload in orbit.



After takeoff from Mojave, the “Cosmic Girl” carrier jet will fly to the west, then south over the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. Once over the Pacific Ocean, the aircraft will fly in a racetrack pattern before lining up on the rocket’s southeasterly flight path. Release of the rocket is expected about 50 minutes after takeoff from Mojave. Credit: Virgin Orbit

The 70-foot-long (21-meter) LauncherOne rocket is designed to compete with other commercial smallsat launchers, such as Rocket Lab’s Electron booster, for contracts to deliver CubeSats and microsatellites to orbit for commercial customers, the U.S. military and NASA. Virgin Orbit says it can haul up to 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of cargo into a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) polar sun-synchronous orbit, a standard operating orbit for Earth-imaging satellites.

A dedicated launch by Virgin Orbit sells for around $12 million.

Hart said last month that Virgin Orbit plans to have a chase plane for the launch, and video cameras are mounted on the aircraft and the the LauncherOne vehicle itself to capture the rocket’s release from the carrier jet, first stage ignition and climb into space.

But the company does not plan to provide a live public webcast for the LauncherOne demonstration flight. Instead, Virgin Orbit will release updates on Twitter as the mission progresses.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/05/21/virgin-orbit-schedules-its-first-orbital-test-launch-for-this-weekend/
« Ostatnia zmiana: Styczeń 19, 2021, 02:22 wysłana przez Orionid »

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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #6 dnia: Maj 24, 2020, 04:14 »
Virgin Orbit ready for first orbital launch attempt
by Jeff Foust — May 20, 2020 [SN]


Virgin Orbit's "Cosmic Girl" 747 aircraft, with a LauncherOne rocket attached, performs a final captive carry flight April 12 before the company's first orbital launch attempt. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit announced May 20 it will make the first flight of its LauncherOne air-launched vehicle as soon as May 24, but is setting modest expectations about the probability of success.

The company said in a statement that it current plans to perform its inaugural LauncherOne mission May 24, with “Cosmic Girl,” the company’s modified Boeing 747, flying out of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. A four-hour launch window starts at 1 p.m. Eastern. The company has reserved a backup launch date for May 25, during the same four-hour window.

(...)
Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-ready-for-first-orbital-launch-attempt/
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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #7 dnia: Maj 24, 2020, 04:23 »
Virgin Orbit sets expectations for first launch
by Jeff Foust — May 23, 2020 [SN]
Updated 8:45 a.m. Eastern May 24 with revised launch date


A drop test of a LauncherOne test article in July 2019. The company is ready for its first orbital launch attempt May 24, but cautions first launches of any new vehicle are inherently risky. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit says that it’s ready for its first orbital launch attempt, now scheduled for no earlier than May 25, while acknowledging potentially long odds of successfully placing a payload into orbit.

Company executives said in a May 23 media call that final preparations for the inaugural LauncherOne mission are proceeding, with a “green board” and no weather concerns. However, the company announced early May 24 that the launch attempt later that day had been scrubbed because one sensor in the rocket that was “acting up” after the rocket was fueled. “Currently, it appears we’ve got a straightforward path to address this minor sensor issue and recycle quickly,” the company tweeted.

Takeoff of “Cosmic Girl,” the Boeing 747 that serves as the air-launch platform for the LauncherOne rocket, is now scheduled for no earlier than May 25 about 12:30 p.m. Eastern from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, with release of the rocket 45 to 60 minutes later.

If all goes well, LauncherOne will deploy a test payload, which company vice president Will Pomerantz described as a “nice-looking inert mass” intended only to demonstrate payload integration processes, into an orbit low enough to ensure it reenters relatively quickly. The key purpose of the launch, though, is to test that the vehicle performs as designed.

“The data tomorrow is the product of that flight,” said Dan Hart, chief executive of Virgin Orbit, allowing the company to compare the vehicle’s actual performance to models. Doing so, he said, “is a huge step in the maturation of a system, and that’s what we’re after tomorrow.”

In the call, like in the company’s announcement of the upcoming test flight, they emphasized the risks of first launches, including a historical record that shows such launches are successful only about half the time. Just getting to the release of the rocket and ignition of its NewtonThree first stage engine will be a major milestone, they argued.

“That moment of ignition of the NewtonThree, I would say, is the key moment in this flight,” Pomerantz said. “We’ll keep going as long as we can after that, potentially all the way to orbit, but we’re really excited about the data and about the moment of ignition and as far as we can get after that.”

Several key issues they will be watching during the flight will be the performance of the NewtonThree as well as the NewtonFour engine that powers the rocket’s second stage, along with stage separation systems and payload fairing deployment. “Those are the kinds of milestones” that the company will be closely monitoring, Hart said, “and each has its own data set.”

Despite the uncertainties in the performance of the rocket, Hart said it was time to fly. “You essentially get to a point where you have looked under every rock and verified there is nothing more for you to do to verify that the system is ready, and that is what we’ve done,” he said.

Hart argued there will be degrees of success, rather than a binary success or failure of the flight. “With the first launch of a system, success is gauged incrementally as you operate the system, and that’s the way we will be viewing it,” he said. “The more data we get, the more valuable the flight is.”

Virgin Orbit is leaving open the possibility of going into commercial service even if the mission falls short of placing the test payload into orbit. The company has a second rocket nearly complete at its Long Beach, California, factory, and its first operational mission is one for NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services program, placing a set of smallsats into orbit.

“It’s always situational,” Hart said of the possibility of going into regular operations even if the launch is not 100% successful. It may be possible to make up for any missing data, he argued, “with ground testing or analysis.”

Virgin Orbit expects to perform one or two more LauncherOne missions this year. “Our plan is to essentially double that” next year, Hart said.

The coronavirus pandemic affected launch preparations. “Initially it caused us to stop, and in stopping we focused our innovations and our energies not on designing spaceflight hardware but in designing how to work in a COVID-19 environment,” he said. That included changing the layout of the mission control center and revising procedures for work in the factory. “We really changed the way we operated over the last couple of months, and we were able to gradually move forward.”

The pandemic also means that Virgin Group founder Richard Branson won’t be in Mojave to witness the final preparations and takeoff, but will be following along virtually. “He’s in close touch and tracking the progress steadily,” Hart said.


Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-sets-expectations-for-first-launch/
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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #8 dnia: Czerwiec 02, 2020, 17:51 »
Virgin Orbit first launch attempt fails
by Jeff Foust — May 25, 2020 Updated 8 p.m. Eastern with comments from company CEO Dan Hart. [SN]


Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket ignites its first stage engine seconds after release from the Boeing 747 aircraft that ferried it to the drop zone. The engine shut down a "handful of seconds" later, causing the launch to fail. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne failed to reach orbit in its first launch attempt May 25, with the mission “terminated” moments after the rocket’s release from its aircraft.

The company’s “Cosmic Girl” aircraft, a modified Boeing 747, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 2:56 p.m. Eastern, after a launch attempt May 24 was scrubbed because of a faulty sensor on the rocket. After a 54-minute flight to the designated launch zone, near the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast, the plane released the LauncherOne rocket from its left wing.

However, Virgin Orbit, which did not provide a live webcast of the launch but instead offered updates via social media, tweeted moments later that while there was a “clean release” of the rocket from the aircraft, “the mission terminated shortly into the flight.”

“We ignited the engine, and it looks like successfully,” Dan Hart, chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said in a phone interview a few hours after the launch. “It flew for a handful of seconds, and then we had an issue.”

Hart said that what that issue was — an “anomaly” as described by the company in a statement after the launch — is not yet known. It did, though, cause the NewtonThree engine powering the rocket’s first stage to shut down.

Virgin Orbit acknowledged that achieving orbit on a first launch would be difficult, noting that, based on historical records, only about 50% of first launches of new vehicles are successful. The second LauncherOne rocket is nearing completion at the company’s factory, with several more in various stages of production.

Company executives emphasized prior to the flight, including a media briefing May 23, that simply igniting the NewtonThree engine in the rocket’s first stage would be a key milestone for the flight. Hart said that the events leading up to the release and ignition of the first stage went smoothly.

“What we did today is really demonstrated the challenging aspects of air launch,” he said. “Even though it was not as long a flight as we’d liked, we did burn down quite a lot of the risks associated with flying, and learned a lot about how the vehicle behaves.”

Hart said that engineers will spend the next several weeks reviewing the data from the launch attempt, while others continue working on the next LauncherOne rocket. The results of the investigation may lead to additional testing of that next rocket or other changes, the extent of which is not yet clear.

LauncherOne started as a Virgin Galactic project, announced by company founder Richard Branson at the Farnborough International Airshow in July 2012. As originally conceived, LauncherOne would use the same WhiteKnightTwo plane built to serve as a carrier aircraft for its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle.

In 2015, Virgin Galactic changed course and acquired a Boeing 747 from airline Virgin Atlantic; the name “Cosmic Girl” dates back to its use by the airline. Using a 747 allowed the company to increase the size, and payload capacity, of the rocket.

Virgin Galactic spun out the LauncherOne project into a separate company, Virgin Orbit, in March 2017, based in Long Beach, California. It later established a wholly-owned U.S.-incorporated subsidiary, VOX Space, to work with national security customers.

Virgin Orbit has gradually built up a manifest of commercial and government customers. Hart said in a May 23 call with reporters that the total value of its manifest is in “the hundreds of millions” of dollars but did not give a specific figure. The company set a price of about $12 million a launch prior to entering service but he said that “pricing will follow the market as we get into full operations and we’ll adjust accordingly.”

LauncherOne is one of a growing number of small launch vehicles intended to provide dedicated launches of small satellites. While there are more than 100 such vehicles in various stages of development, by some estimates, Hart said he didn’t see nearly as much competition for his company.

“I don’t see it as very packed,” he said of the market in the pre-launch media call. “We’re differentiated in our air-launch capability, which gives us much, much higher flexibility, and even mobility.”

Most of those small launch vehicles that serve as potential competition to LauncherOne are still in earlier phases of development. “Launch is still a highly, highly needed commodity,” he said.

Despite failing to reach orbit, Hart said both he and his employees were remarkably upbeat. “The mood was actually very high” among the LauncherOne team, he said, because they made it through countdown and release. “There’s a lot of pride in the team that we successfully did that, and we did it so uneventfully.”

“The sense I have from the whole team is that there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that we’ll quickly get to root cause and address it.”


Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-first-launch-attempt-fails/
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Odp: [SFN] Drop test moves Virgin Orbit closer to first satellite launch
« Odpowiedź #9 dnia: Czerwiec 02, 2020, 17:52 »
Virgin Orbit’s air-launched rocket fails on first test flight
May 25, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]


Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft — a Boeing 747 named “Cosmic Girl” — took off from Mojave Air and Space Port at 2:56 p.m. EDT (11:56 a.m. EDT) Monday with the company’s LauncherOne rocket under its left wing. Credit: Matt Hartman / Shorealone Films

Making its first flight, a privately-funded air-launched rocket developed and built by Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit failed to reach space Monday after release from the company’s modified 747 carrier airplane over the Pacific Ocean.

Designed to haul small satellites into orbit, Virgin Orbit’s two-stage LauncherOne suffered an “anomaly” soon after ignition of its kerosene-fed first stage engine, the company said.

“LauncherOne maintained stability after release, and we ignited our first stage engine, NewtonThree,” Virgin Orbit said. “An anomaly then occurred early in first stage flight. We’ll learn more as our engineers analyze the mountain of data we collected today.”

The rocket was carried aloft from Mojave Air and Space Port in California by the Boeing 747 mothership, named “Cosmic Girl.”

With a two-person flight crew and two launch engineers on-board, the airplane flew west from Mojave, then south over the Pacific Ocean toward the rocket’s drop point near California’s Channel Islands around 100 miles (160 kilometers) west-southwest of Long Beach.

Chief pilot Kelly Latimer, a veteran test pilot, flew the the 747 through the rocket’s drop box, then entered a race track pattern to loop back around line up for launch on a southeasterly heading.

In the final moments before release, she maneuvered the airplane to pull up at an angle of about 27.5 degrees. The launch team aboard the plane then commanded release of the 70-foot-long (21-meter) rocket from a pylon under the aircraft’s left wing at 2:50 p.m. EDT (11:50 a.m. PDT; 1850 GMT).

Virgin Orbit did not livestream Monday’s launch attempt, but the company provided near real-time updates on Twitter. After confirming release of the LauncherOne rocket, Virgin Orbit followed up three minutes later with a tweet saying the “mission terminated shortly into the flight.”

The company said the aircraft and its four-person crew were safe. The “Cosmic Girl” carrier jet landed back at Mojave at 4:26 p.m. EDT (1:26 p.m. PDT; 2026 GMT).


Cytuj
Virgin Orbit@Virgin_Orbit·May 25, 2020
Replying to @Virgin_Orbit
Cosmic Girl has released LauncherOne!
Virgin Orbit@Virgin_Orbit
We've confirmed a clean release from the aircraft. However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight. Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base.
9:53 PM · May 25, 2020
Twitter

Virgin Orbit officials carefully set expectations before Monday’s test flight, which was the first try for the company’s LauncherOne rocket to reach Earth orbit.

“History is not terribly kind to maiden flights,” said Will Pomerantz, Virgin Orbit’s vice president of special projects, in a conference call with reporters Saturday. “Taking my best faith estimate, it’s about half of maiden (rocket) flights fail. So that’s sort of the historical odds we’re against.”

Virgin Orbit built the bulk of the rocket in-house. The rocket’s tanks, composite structures and engines were all developed by the company’s engineers.

The NewtonThree engine on LauncherOne’s first stage can generate about 73,500 pounds of thrust. The NewtonFour engine on the second stage, which is designed to ignite multiple times on a single flight, produces around 6,000 pounds of thrust.

Both engines consume kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen. The LauncherOne is the first air-launched orbital-class rocket to burn liquid fuel.

“This will be the first time that we’ve lit our NewtonThree booster stage engine in flight,” Pomerantz said in the pre-launch press briefing. “It’s coming after a lot of testing, but this is kind of the next big step. That moment of ignition of the NewtonThree, I would say, is the key moment in this flight. We’ll keep going as long as we can after that, potentially even all the way to orbit, but we’re really excited about the data, and about the moment of ignition, and as far as we can get after that.”

Imagery from National Weather Service radar in Los Angeles appeared to show a debris cloud in the vicinity of the LauncherOne drop zone at the time of the rocket’s release.


Cytuj
Steve Paluch@BrewCityChaser
Seems the Los Angeles NEXRAD picked up what appears to be the breakup of @Virgin_Orbit's rocket shortly after release. (H/T @wxmeddler)
11:09 PM · May 25, 2020
Twitter

Virgin Orbit said Monday that teams accomplished all pre-flight milestones according to plan, including propellant loading on the ground at Mojave, takeoff and flyout over the Pacific Ocean, the terminal countdown and a clean release of LauncherOne from the aircraft.

“As we said before the flight, our goals today were to work through the process of conducting a launch, learn as much as we could, and achieve ignition,” Virgin Orbit said. “We hoped we could have done more, but we accomplished those key objectives today.”

There were no customer payloads on Monday’s test flight. The rocket carried an inert payload Virgin Orbit intended to release in orbit to test the vehicle’s satellite deployment mechanism.

“The team’s already hard at work digging into the data, and we’re eager to hop into our next big test ASAP,” Virgin Orbit said. “Thankfully, instead of waiting until after our 1st flight to tackle our 2nd rocket, we’ve already completed a ton of work to get us back in the air and keep moving forward.”



Virgin Orbit shared this picture of the company’s second flight-ready LauncherOne rocket inside the company’s factory in Long Beach, California. The company said it is ready for system-level testing. Credit: Virgin Orbit

Before the launch, Virgin Orbit officials said they would evaluate the results of the inaugural test launch before deciding whether to proceed into commercial service with LauncherOne, or perform a second test flight.

“You’d have to get into the technical discussion of what did we prove? What data did we get, and what data did we not get? And how could we augment it, if we needed to, with ground testing?” said Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit’s president and CEO, during a conference call with reporters Saturday.

“This is a test flight, so the purpose of this flight is to incrementally test the rocket and the airplane and the system as we pass through the operations,” Hart said Saturday. “So we’ll be getting data on our (propellant) load sequence, our captive carry flight out, and the full flight of the rocket after it drops through first stage flight, separation, second stage flight, and so forth.

“And we have telemetry stations around the world to capture the data as it comes down,” Hart said. “The data … is the product of that flight, and every increment that we learn, from the moment that we start fueling the rocket, to flying it out, to lighting the engines, and observing the response of the system … is a huge step in the maturation of a system.”

Engineers have performed numerous engine test-firings, stage and fairing separation tests, and propellant loading rehearsals. Virgin Orbit also last year released an inert LauncherOne rocket over a military test range at Edwards Air Force Base in California, verifying the airplane’s release mechanism.

Before the test flight, Hart said the data gathered on the first launch would anchor engineering models that have, so far, only relied on testing performed on the ground or in the atmosphere.

The debut test flight capped years of development of Virgin Orbit’s small satellite launch system. The effort began as a project of sister company Virgin Galactic, which focuses on the suborbital space tourism market.

Both companies are part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

Virgin Galactic says it first studied the LauncherOne concept in 2007, and development began in earnest in 2012. Engineers in 2015 scrapped initial plans to drop the rocket from Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, and kicked off development of a redesigned system using a 747 jumbo jet taken from Virgin Atlantic’s commercial airline fleet.

Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Virgin Orbit was established in 2017 as a spinoff of Virgin Galactic. The company currently has around 500 full-time employees, according to Pomerantz.

Virgin Orbit’s investors include Branson’s Virgin Group and Mubadala, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund.

“The way you approach a milestone like this is through a number of gates and a lot of discussion,” Hart said Saturday. “And you essentially get to a point where you have looked under every rock and verified that there’s nothing more for you to do to verify that the system is ready, and that’s what we have done.”

Other companies are vying for the same slice of the launch market.

Rocket Lab, a U.S.-New Zealand company, debuted its Electron small satellite launcher in 2017. Like Virgin Orbit’s first test launch, Rocket Lab’s debut mission failed before reaching orbit, a mishap the company blamed on a malfunction in a piece of ground equipment.

Another U.S. launch company, Firefly Aerospace, aims to fly its small new Alpha rocket into orbit before the end of this year.

And there are opportunities for small satellites to launch as rideshare payloads on bigger rockets. SpaceX says it charges as little as $1 million to launch a piggyback payload of up to 440 pounds, or 200 kilograms, with a primary payload on a Falcon 9 rocket.

Hart said Virgin Orbit has initially set a launch price of about $12 million per LauncherOne flight, but that could be divided among multiple customers if their satellites are light enough.

SpaceX’s first orbital-class rocket, the now-retired Falcon 1, failed on its first four attempts to put an object into Earth orbit.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, and Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck wished Virgin Orbit well in tweets after Monday’s launch.


Cytuj
Virgin Orbit@Virgin_Orbit·May 25, 2020 Replying to @Virgin_Orbit
We've confirmed a clean release from the aircraft. However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight. Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base.
Elon Musk@elonmusk
Sorry to hear that. Orbit is hard. Took us four attempts with Falcon 1.
10:44 PM · May 25, 2020
Twitter

Cytuj
Peter Beck@Peter_J_Beck Replying to @Virgin_Orbit
Launch is super hard, the team should be really proud of today’s attempt. Glad the crew is home safe.
11:12 PM · May 25, 2020
Twitter

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/05/25/virgin-orbits-air-launched-rocket-fails-on-first-test-flight/
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Odp: [SN] Virgin Orbit reaches orbit on second LauncherOne mission
« Odpowiedź #10 dnia: Styczeń 19, 2021, 02:57 »
Virgin Orbit reaches orbit on second LauncherOne mission
by Jeff Foust — January 17, 2021 Updated 7:20 p.m. Eastern with post-launch comments from Virgin Orbit. [SN]


Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne shortly after engine ignition on its Jan. 17 launch. Credit: Virgin Orbit

COVINGTON, La. — Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket reached orbit on its second flight Jan. 17, demonstrating the performance of the air-launch system after years of development.

The company’s Boeing 747 aircraft, called Cosmic Girl, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 1:38 p.m. Eastern with the LauncherOne rocket attached. The plane flew out over the Pacific just off the Southern California coast and released the rocket at about 2:39 p.m. Eastern.

The rocket ignited its NewtonThree first stage engine for three minutes, followed by stage separation and ignition of the NewtonFour engine in the rocket’s second stage for nearly six minutes. After a 46-minute coast, the rocket reignited the NewtonFour for a five-second burn, followed by payload deployment in an approximately 500-kilometer orbit, although Virgin Orbit took more than an hour to confirm those final steps.

“A new gateway to space has just sprung open,” said Dan Hart, president and chief executive of Virgin Orbit, in a statement after the launch, praising his company’s “laser focus” on the program despite technical challenges and the ongoing pandemic. “That effort paid off today with a beautifully executed mission, and we couldn’t be happier.”

“Virgin Orbit has achieved something many thought impossible,” said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, in that statement. “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.”

The launch was the capstone of a development program that dates back to July 2012, when Virgin Galactic announced its intent to develop a small launch vehicle to complement its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle. LauncherOne was originally planned to use the same WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft as SpaceShipTwo, but the company later decided to acquire a Boeing 747 for use as a carrier aircraft. Virgin Galactic spun out the LauncherOne project into a separate company, Virgin Orbit, in 2017.

The customer for the Launch Demo 2 mission was NASA under a contract awarded in 2015 as part of its Venture Class Launch Services program to support emerging small launch vehicle developers. The mission, called ELaNa 20 by NASA, carried 10 cubesats from eight universities and one NASA center. The spacecraft are designed to perform a range of science and technology demonstration missions.

Despite flying payloads, Virgin Orbit emphasized before the launch that the primary purpose of the flight was to test the vehicle. “It’s important to note that this is a test launch,” Dan Hart, president and chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said in a prelaunch call with reporters. “Any early launches of a launch system carry a certain amount of risk.”

“We will be thrilled to get the data and see the performance of the first stage and the second stage as it goes through their paces. We’re also mindful that there’s risk on whether we will get to the final orbit,” he added. “We are working vigorously and looking at all the details in making sure we have the best shot possible to get to orbit.”

Virgin Orbit’s first LauncherOne flight, in May 2020, failed seconds after ignition of the rocket’s NewtonThree engine. An investigation determined a liquid oxygen feed line ruptured, causing the engine to shut down.

Hart said in the prelaunch call that the company brought in “some of the best industry experts,” including former chief engineers of the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, for an independent investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and U.S. Air Force monitored the investigation, with support from The Aerospace Corporation.

After identifying the cause, Virgin Orbit performed a new structural analysis of that portion of the vehicle and modified components to address the problem, followed by testing on a vibration table and static-fire tests of the engine. The company also performed a similar examination of NewtonFour, the engine in the second stage that did not get a chance to fire in the previous launch attempt. “There were some minor mods that we made there as well,” Hart said.

In the prelaunch briefing, Virgin Orbit didn’t disclose plans for their next launch, but Hart stated that the company was assembling the next LauncherOne rocket, which he described as being a “few weeks away from being ready.” Several other vehicles in earlier stages of assembly. In the post-launch statement, the company confirmed they are moving into commercial operations with their next launch, but did not disclose a schedule or customer for that next launch.

Hart said the company saw a diversified market for LauncherOne, with growing interest from U.S. national security customers. “The market has shifted a little bit, where the moves that the government has made open up new opportunities there, and we’re very focused on that,” he said. That’s in addition to demand from NASA and other nations’ space agencies and from developers of constellations of dozens of smallsats.

“We are really positioned to ramp up into a steady cadence of launch,” Hart said.


Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-reaches-orbit-on-second-launcherone-mission/

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Odp: [SFN] Virgin’s satellite launcher reaches orbit for first time
« Odpowiedź #11 dnia: Styczeń 19, 2021, 03:03 »
Virgin’s satellite launcher reaches orbit for first time
January 18, 2021 Stephen Clark [SFN]


Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket fires its NewtonThree main engine moments after release from the Boeing 747 carrier jet, named “Cosmic Girl.” Credit: Virgin Orbit

An air-launched rocket built by Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reached orbit Sunday for the first time, delivering 10 experimental CubeSats for NASA and positioning the company for the start of commercial operations.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better flight,” said Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit’s CEO, in an interview Sunday evening. “We hit all of our events right on the money. The performance of the rocket was exactly where we wanted it to be.”

The success adds another company to the growing club of private space companies capable of launching satellites. Virgin Orbit is second in a new wave of commercial small launch companies — after Rocket Lab — to accomplish the task of putting payloads in orbit.

Virgin Orbit aims to offer small satellite operators — ranging from NASA and research institutions, to the U.S. and foreign militaries, to commercial startups — dedicated launch opportunities from sites around the world.

“Virgin Orbit has achieved something many thought impossible,” Branson said in a statement. “It was so inspiring to see our specially adapted Virgin Atlantic 747, ‘Cosmic Girl,’ send the LauncherOne rocket soaring into orbit. 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.”

“A new gateway to space has just sprung open! That LauncherOne was able to successfully reach orbit today is a testament to this team’s talent, precision, drive, and ingenuity. Even in the face of a global pandemic, we’ve maintained a laser focus on fully demonstrating every element of this revolutionary launch system. That effort paid off today with a beautifully executed mission, and we couldn’t be happier,” Hart said.

Virgin Orbit said the successful test launch will allow the company to commence commercial operations.

“With this successful demonstration in the books, Virgin Orbit will officially transition into commercial service for its next mission,” the company said in a statement. “Virgin Orbit has subsequent launches booked by customers ranging from the U.S. Space Force and the U.K.’s Royal Air Force to commercial customers like Swarm Technologies, Italy’s SITAEL, and Denmark’s GomSpace.”

“This morning, we had a developmental system, and now we’ve proven it by the afternoon,” Hart said. “That’s a unique aspect of this business. Looking forward, we have several rockets in flow in the factory.”

The use of an air-launched rocket deployed from a Boeing 747 carrier jet comes with some limitations and technical challenges, but Virgin Orbit says it gives the company flexibility in where it launches and the orbits it can reach.

In addition to the company’s primary launch base at Mojave, California, Virgin Orbit plans launches from Guam, and is studying basing missions in the United Kingdom and other sites around the world.



The LauncherOne rocket fires into space Sunday. Credit: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit’s 747 carrier aircraft took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 10:38 a.m. PST (1:38 p.m. EST; 1838 GMT) with the nearly 29-ton LauncherOne rocket mounted under its left wing.

After heading west, then turning south to cross California’s Central Coast, the aircraft’s two pilots and two launch engineers readied the rocket for release.

Piloted by Kelly Latimer, a former U.S. Air Force test pilot, the 747 jumbo jet entered a steep climb of more than 25 degrees just before the crew sent the command to drop the 70-foot-long (21-meter) rocket around 35,000 feet (10,700 meters) over the Pacific Ocean off the coast Southern California at 11:39 a.m. PST (2:39 p.m. EST (1939 GMT) Sunday.

Five seconds later, pumps inside the rocket’s NewtonThree main engine spun up to ignite LauncherOne’s first stage and accelerate toward the southeast over the Pacific. Burning kerosene in combination with liquid oxygen, the main engine generated 73,500 pounds of thrust during a three-minute burn to booster the rocket out of the atmosphere.

Virgin Orbit tweeted real-time updates on the progress of the mission, but the company did not host a public stream live video of the mission.

The rocket’s NewtonFour second stage engine ignited moments after the LauncherOne booster jettisoned, followed by separation of the payload fairing once the vehicle reached space. After a six-minute upper stage firing, the rocket reached a preliminary orbit, a first for Branson’s Virgin Group, which owns Virgin Orbit and sister-company Virgin Galactic, which focuses on the suborbital space tourism market.

“According to telemetry, LauncherOne has reached orbit! Everyone on the team who is not in mission control right now is going absolutely bonkers,” Virgin Orbit tweeted.

But the rocket was not done.

After crossing over Antarctica and coasting halfway around the world, the rocket reignited its second stage engine for a few seconds, targeting a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) orbit. The rocket was programmed to deploy its 10 nanosatellite payloads about one minute later.

It took nearly two hours for Virgin Orbit to confirm the results of the final burn and CubeSat separations.

“Payloads successfully deployed into our target orbit!” Virgin Orbit tweeted. “We are so, so proud to say that LauncherOne has now completed its first mission to space, carrying nine CubeSat missions into low Earth orbit for our friends (at) NASA.”



Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, mounted under the wing of a Boeing 747 carrier jet, takes off from Mojave Air and Space Port on Sunday. Credit: Gene Blevins / LA Daily News

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne became the second air-launched rocket to put satellites into orbit, following the solid-fueled Pegasus launch vehicle developed by Orbital Sciences, now part of Northrop Grumman. The LauncherOne rocket is the first liquid-fueled satellite booster to fly into orbit off an airborne platform.

Sunday’s mission, called “Launch Demo 2” by Virgin Orbit, followed nearly eight months after the first LauncherOne rocket failed seconds after release from the 747 carrier aircraft. Virgin Orbit said a break in a liquid oxygen feed line to the LauncherOne’s first stage engine caused the failure a few seconds after the engine ignited.

Engineers beefed up the feed line for the second LauncherOne rocket, and the propulsion system apparently functioned normally Sunday.

The LauncherOne vehicle can deliver up to 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of payload to a low-altitude equatorial orbit, or up to 661 pounds (300 kilograms) to a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) polar orbit, according to Virgin Orbit.

The payloads aboard the launch Sunday had a combined mass of about 253 pounds, or 115 kilograms, including adapters and harnesses, according to Kendall Russell, a Virgin Orbit spokesperson.

As Virgin Orbit’s first paying customer, NASA agreed to accept additional risk on the second LauncherOne flight.

Although there were 10 small satellites on-board, the prime objective of Virgin Orbit’s Launch Demo 2 mission was to “characterize the performance of the system and to get the data as we go through the sequence of events,” Hart said before the launch.

“We have what we consider NASA’s more risk-tolerant payloads, but from our point of view, they’re real payloads, and we want to get them to the right place,” Hart said last week. “It’s a new system, and the objective of a demo flight is to get the data on the system. So getting the data is internally our primary objectives, and our success criteria.”

NASA booked the mission in 2015 with Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit’s previous parent company, through the Venture Class Launch Services program. NASA established the VCLS program to provide rides to orbit for small research nanosatellites, and help give business to startup companies developing smallsat launchers.

The VCLS missions are “intended to be demonstration flights,” according to Scott Higginbotham, a mission manager in the Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

NASA solicits proposals from U.S. research and educational institutions for CubeSat experiments through the CubeSat Launch Initiative. The agency pays for the launch of the CubeSats it selects, while the spacecraft themselves are typically funded through other sources.



Payload technicians prepare one of the 10 CubeSats on the Launch Demo 2 mission for loading into its deployment mechanism. Credit: Virgin Orbit

“Our first customer on this flight, NASA, has done some incredible things with small satellites, and we really look forward to pushing forward with NASA in exploring our solar system, our universe, and our Earth with small satellites,” Hart said in a pre-launch press conference. “NASA is moving toward using small satellites as a more cost-effective way of doing Earth science.”

NASA called the Virgin Orbit mission ELaNa-20, or the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites-20.

The 10 CubeSats aboard Virgin Orbit’s Launch Demo 2 mission were built by university students and NASA researchers. Here’s an overview of the CubeSat payloads provided by NASA and Virgin Orbit:

CACTUS-1 – Capital Technology University, Laurel, Maryland: A 3U CubeSat carrying out two technology demonstrations. The primary payload, TrapSat, is tackling the issue of space debris by using aerogel to capture and profile orbiting microdebris. The mission also includes the first secondary stand-alone payload for a CubeSat, the Hermes module, which demonstrates commanding via Internet as an cost-saving communications and command subsystem for gathering scientific data.

CAPE-3 – Unversity of Louisiana Lafayette, Louisiana: This educational mission will fly the Smartphone CubeSat Classroom, which allows anyone with a smartphone to set up a ground station with a kit. Interactive educational activities will give students the ability to interact with the CubeSat via an app on their smartphone and use their smartphone to design their own CubeSat experiments.

EXOCUBE-2 – California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, California: This 3U CubeSat is equipped with a space weather platform that will measure a number of atomic and ionic substances in the exosphere. Knowledge of the composition and the current state of activity in the exosphere can be useful in the prediction of space weather phenomena in order to forecast potential effects on satellite communications and spacecraft performance.

MiTEE – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan: MiTEE is a series of two CubeSat missions developing the capability to deploy a pico/femto (i.e. very small) satellite-tether system. The missions will allow students to work on a real-world, research-driven mission to assess the key dynamics and electrodynamic fundamentals of a very short tether system for flying pairs of smallsats.

PICS – Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah: A pair of two satellites, PICS is a technology demonstration of a spacecraft that can perform inspection, maintenance and assembly on another spacecraft. The two flight systems deployed simultaneously will enable the collection of image data from each other as well as the parent spacecraft.

PolarCube – University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado: PolarCube is a small radiometer that will collect Earth surface and atmospheric temperature data. Its purpose is to collect brightness temperature spectra at a low cost, useful for applications like storm cell observations and the study of sea ice fractions near the poles.

Q-PACE – University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida: Q-PACE will facilitate long-duration microgravity experiments to study collisions in the early protoplanetary disk. The CubeSat will observe low-velocity collisions between cm-scale and smaller particles, addressing the decades-old question of how bodies grow past the meter-size barrier into planetesimals that can become planets through gravitational accretion.

RadFXSat-2 – Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee: RadFxSat-2 has two mission objectives: to study the effects of space radiation on a specific kind of Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) for the purpose of validating single-event error rate predictions, and to test a design for two-way amateur radio communications.

TechEdSat-7 – NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett, California: The overall goal of TechEdSat is to evaluate, demonstrate, and validate two new technologies for future experiments aboard smallsats. After 60 days in orbit, the satellite will be commanded to quickly re-enter the atmosphere utilizing a new device called an Exo-Brake.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/01/18/virgins-satellite-launcher-reaches-orbit-on-second-try/
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Odp: Artykuły o Virgin Orbit
« Odpowiedź #12 dnia: Lipiec 01, 2021, 00:10 »
Virgin Orbit launches cubesats on second operational mission
by Jeff Foust — June 30, 2021 [SN]


An onboard camera view of the payloads on LauncherOne's "Tubular Bells: Part One" mission June 30, taken as the second stage ascended towards orbit. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne successfully launched seven cubesats June 30 in the second operational mission of the air-launch system.

Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 aircraft, called Cosmic Girl, took off from Mojave Air and Space Port at approximately 9:50 a.m. Eastern. It flew to its drop point over the Pacific Ocean off the coast from Southern California, releasing the LauncherOne rocket at 10:47 a.m. Eastern. (...)

The seven satellites on the “Tubular Bells: Part One” mission come from three customers. Four unnamed satellites are from the Defense Department’s Space Test Program, under a contract that is part of the DOD’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative.

Two satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5, were built by SatRevolution, a Polish smallsat developer planning a constellation of satellites for medium-resolution multispectral imagery. Virgin Orbit announced June 29 that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with SatRevolution that could lead to launches of future satellites.

Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-launches-cubesats-on-second-operational-mission/

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