While not the first, still a good advancement.
This is a way to launch smaller payloads more economically.
Note as cool as using a fighter jet, but allows for a larger payload to be lifted.
After an initial failure in 2020, the Virgin Galactic spinout reached orbit on its second try, with the LauncherOne rocket deploying its payloads to a 500km orbit. Virgin Orbit employs an air-launch system via the Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft, an adapted Boeing 747, which drops LauncherOne at the required altitude. The first …
>This is a way to launch smaller payloads more economically.
TBD - Pegasus never made it economic, although that was under a NASA/military model.
One problem with Cornwall (other than the obvious) is that the whole point of this system is that you can fly to where the weather is nice for a launch - the North Atlantic isn't the most obvious choice.
The other problem is that you can't launch anything American
The idea is to be able to launch from any latitude in any direction.
For this payload that is probably further north than an equatorial GSO orbit (nobody is putting 20ton communication satellites on this thing).
You want good weather both at the take-off and launch altitude, with a $MM rocket hanging under the wing you don't want to fly through a storm at climb out, even if it is nice at FL300
Mostly it depends on how much swing Boeing/Lockheed still have in Washington, if they can get every US launch on this thing blocked by ITAR.
That's true, but dragging a delicate rocket with delicate payload THROUGH the storm might cause unforeseen problems.
I do think we're being a little optimistic about Cornwall except in the summer, but when it finally happens it'll be pretty cool.
It was good to see this trial succeed though.
This always surprises me. They get a major oopsie, crap software, escape system explodes, whatever. Then they only have to do one successful test before they put the monkeys in the tin. I'd have every failure require two successful tests at least.
I'm old enough to remember that this is how we broke the sound barrier with the Bell X-1 (after stealing design concepts from the British Miles M.52).
Getting out of a portion of the gravity well before launching a space vehicle is a viable option and I applaud Virgin Orbit for their success.
Pints (or Virgin Marys?) all round.
>Getting out of a portion of the gravity well before launching a space vehicle is a viable option
It's no real change in gravity (Earth's surface is 6400km from the center, 30,000ft is only 9km further!)
The alleged advantage is that you can fly out to sea and launch in any direction - it's hard to find a land based launch site that has empty ocean in all directions ! You can also fly to where the weather is nicer, assuming it is good enough to let you get off the ground.
Drawbacks are that you are limited to a small, single payload.
It has to be engineered to support itself sideways while slung underneath an aeroplane and then 'downwards' when the rocket kicks off.
The launch altitude isn't high enough for the rocket to be vacuum optimised, so you still need 2 stages.
And because it has a manned carrier aeroplane you have all the safety costs and restrictions of a manned launch.
Yes, the rocket and payload have different launch parameters to endure. The extra engineering for this is offset* by the lack of needing to pay for a bigger rocket and the first 30,000ft worth of rocket fuel.
It's a business there'll either be paying customers or not!
* to whatever level of +/-%
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