Today, Virgin Orbit is going to attempt to launch a cubesat on its LauncherOne rocket from the belly of a modified 747. This Richard Branson-owned company is a sister to Virgin Galactic, and like its sibling, this company looks to avoid the hold-ups in access to space that can happen at spaceports like Kennedy when multiple companies can’t readily have their rockets sitting all lined up at once, ready to launch. Instead of waiting for the range to clear, this aircraft just needs a runway and open skies. The way this works is the 747 takes off, climbs to a high altitude, and then drops a 2 stage rocket that can carry up to 500 kg of cargo to low earth orbit. Since they’re launching from an airplane, they are open to all kinds of orbits, ranging from 0-120deg, meaning their only real limitation is they need some of the Earth’s rotation to not be working against them as they try to get to orbital speeds.
There is no live stream of this launch, but we are monitoring Twitter and will let you know what happens when we know.
Virgin Orbit’s first orbital test flight cut short after rocket released from carrier aircraft