Unlike companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX, Virgin Orbit has built their LauncherOne platform around enabling horizontal small satellite launch. This is important because it will allow for more access to space for cube satellites.
On January 10th, 2021, Virgin Orbit successfully tested Launcher One to launch their rocket from the rocket of their 747, known as Cosmic Girl.
About 1 hour after it launched from the Mojave Air And Space Port, Cosmic Girl released the satellites from under its wing. The rocket contained 10 small satellites sponsored by NASA into orbit which were all designed. built, and tested by universities in the United States.
This is important because Virgin Orbit becomes the third commercial company to reach orbit and means that Richard Branson has two companies that have reached space successfully with two different vehicles. This makes Launcher One the second launch platform to utilize this launch method, with the other being the Northrop Grumman Pegasus. The Northrop Grumman Pegasus has been functioning since 1990, with its last flight in 2019. As there are no future flights scheduled for the Pegasus, having the Cosmic Girl and Launcher One be the premier cube satellite launcher for NASA and other commercial customers. This launch makes the proof of concept for commercial cube sat launch for customers.
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