Introducing "Cosmic Girl", a Virgin Orbit Boeing 747 that is capable of carrying a 70 foot long rocket.
Cosmic Girl will carry LauncherOne from her wing to 35,000 feet before the 57,000 pound rocket engages its thrusters and flies into orbit.
The rocket travels more than 20 times the speed of sound, at 17,500 mph, dropping off satellites. The satellites range from being as small as a loaf of bread to ones as large as a refrigerator.
The 747 completed 16 months of modification work; starting with ground vibration tests, inspections, 3D scanning, removing the interior, and reinforcing her left wing to carry LauncherOne. The electronics as well as dynamics have changed to make it suitable for holding and launching rockets.
The aircraft can fly thousands of miles at a 24 hours’ notice to deliver to the right orbit. Currently, the wait time is between 18 and 24 months for manufacturing and a ground launch.
In Long Beach Airport in California, Virgin Orbit originated and it is the cargo component of sister spaceflight company Virgin Galactic. Both are part of Richard Branson’s Virgin brand.
“The mission of Virgin Orbit, making small satellites more frequent, sustainable, efficient and affordable, is so exciting. The innovations this team are working towards will bring people even closer together and help communities to thrive all around the world.” - Chairman of Virgin, Richard Branson
Space agencies around the world have been launching satellites into Earth’s orbits with help of ground-based rocket launch systems. However, this approach will be a less expensive and time saving option.
Images from Virgin Orbit