Virgin Orbit to Launch 10 CubeSats for NASA into Space

18th Dec 2020
Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne

The upcoming Virgin Orbit launch is one for its history books as the first mission for its LauncherOne rocket. Virgin Orbit is carrying a NASA payload of CubeSats on its rocket, stored safely in its fairing. 

On the 19th December 2020, the ELaNa mission will go ahead from the Mojave Space Port in California. 

It’s crucial to note how vital this upcoming mission is for the space industry. It opens up a chance for CubeSat launches in the future that will get a ride from similar rockets and have varying options. Such diversity as the Virgin Orbit launch indicates growth in the industry and opportunity for private customers to follow suit. 

For the space company, this is a chance to prove to all potential clients its capabilities. NASA is dedicated to helping private companies excel in the industry. Moreover, it is known to seek such companies’ services for its CubeSats sendoffs rather than doing it on its own. 

Virgin Orbit Maiden Launch for NASA

Though NASA has sought other private companies’ services, this mission is a first for Virgin Orbit. The launch will carry its first CubeSats payload for NASA after completing a demonstration earlier in 2020.

The successful demonstration ensured NASA of the viability of its LauncherOne from its launching plane, a modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl. The rocket is attached to the underwing of the craft. The carrier craft then transports it to a predetermined altitude where it’ll be released. 

Once they release the LauncherOne, it’ll drop, heading for the Pacific Ocean. The drop inspires the LauncherOne’s three-stage engine to ignite and begin the launching sequence in order to deliver the CubeSats into space.

Back in 2015, Virgin Orbit became one of 3 companies chosen by NASA to launch its CubeSats through the VCLS (Venture Class Launch Services). The mission is an essential step for an industry that was heavily reliant on NASA for similar launches back in the day. 

Once, companies had to wait for an opening in the launch windows to send payloads to space. Now the Virgin Orbit launch opens up opportunities within the industry for similar ventures in the near future.

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