Virgin Orbit set to reach space for first time this weekend in major milestone

Virgin Orbit attach the LauncherOne rocket to the Cosmic Girl jet

Virgin Orbit is set to reach space this weekend for the first time, after already suffering two delays. The launch has been scheduled between 6pm and 2pm GMT (10am and 2pm PST) on Sunday, January 17. Virgin Orbit had hoped to complete the launch on January 13, but this was changed following a review of the mission – although the company did not go into too much detail.

Virgin Orbit tweeted: “Our Launch Readiness Review is complete, our hardware looks great, and our customers are ready.

“We’re following through on the last actions identified at our LRR.

“Our launch is now targeted for NET Sunday, January 17, with additional windows in January if needed.”

However, the company did state on January 8 the review process could take longer than expected, which may be the reason for the delay.

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The company said: “We love adding purpose-driven missions like this to our manifest! And we’re very eager to conduct a successful launch demo mission in the coming days.

“Once that’s behind us, we’ll really kick it into high gear with several customer missions in quick succession.”

The company will be delivering three CubeSat satellites onboard the Launch Demo 2.

The launch will take place in the Mojave desert at Mojave Air and Space Port in southeastern California, US.

Virgin Orbit will see a carrier plane, named Cosmic Girl, with a rocket strapped beneath one wing, lift off from the Californian desert.

When the carrier plane, which is a modified Boeing 747, reaches a certain altitude, it will release the rocket.

The rocket will then continue into space, where it will deposit the satellites in orbit.

As the name suggests, this is Virgin Orbit’s second attempt to get into space.

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Last year, its LauncherOne reached the edge of space for the first time in the company’s history.

However, the mission was abandoned when the plane reached near orbit due to a propellant line breaking shortly after the first-stage burn began.

Virgin’s space fairing arms have been busy during the coronavirus pandemic, with its other space company, Virgin Galactic, having recently successfully tested its VSS Unity.

The company stated it considered this step a major milestone in its bid for commercial flights, which could begin as early as this year.

Virgin Galactic hopes to take paying customers to the edge of space, where they will be able to experience zero gravity as well as a stunning view of Earth.

Up to six passengers will be able to take a ride on the plane, according to Virgin Galactic.

However, tickets are not cheap and come at a hefty price.

Seats are initially being sold for $250,000 (£196,000) apiece, and customers are able to place a fully refundable deposit of $1,000 (£730) on the company’s website.

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