Orlando FL (UPI) Jan 14, 2022 Virgin Orbit kicked off an ambitious launch schedule for 2022 on...
Virgin Orbit kicked off an ambitious launch schedule for 2022 on Thursday by sending seven small satellites into space aboard a rocket launched from a jet high above the Pacific Ocean.
"Release, Release, Release!" a Virgin Orbit official on the flight said during a live broadcast, followed by, "We have made it above the clouds and into orbit."
Minutes later, Virgin Orbit aerodynamicist Spencer Stebbins said the payloads had separated successfully in orbit from the first stage of the rocket.
British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Orbit, said during the broadcast that the launch shows how space can benefit humanity.
Virgin Orbit completed two successful launches using the same method in 2021.
The mission also carried two tiny satellites for Polish company SatRevolution, which was a Virgin Orbit customer on its last launch in June.
Finally, Virginia-based Spire Global, a satellite imaging provider, launched Adler-1, which was developed in partnership with German and Austrian partners to study space debris in low-Earth orbit.
The rocket carried the satellites to a unique orbit, launching on a 45-degree inclination from the equator, which had never been attempted from the West Coast, said Tony Gingiss, Virgin Orbit chief operating officer.
Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl can take off from any major airport runway carrying the rocket under its wing, whereas most rockets can only launch from vertical space launchpads.
Thursday's Virgin Orbit mission was named Above the Clouds, which references Virgin Orbit's former parent company Virgin Group, which still owns a majority stake in the launcher.