Virgin Orbit launch aircraft

Virgin Orbit tested its rocket launch system.

Virgin Orbit

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit completed “a full dress rehearsal” of its rocket launch system, the company announced in a video Wednesday. The test, which took place Sunday, saw a 747 take off in the Mojave Desert, fly to the drop point, get through the prelaunch checklist and complete the drop maneuver. With everything working as it should, Virgin Orbit says it now has a launch system ready to go.

“Every piece of the system came together,” Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit CEO, said in the video tweeted by the company. “All the hardware, all the software, from ground equipment to rocket to airplane to the equipment on the airplane to range communication and telemetry systems, everything was in play.”

Virgin Orbit, which aims to operate the first commercial Mars satellite mission on the its LauncherOne rocket, did the cryogenic captive carry test — reported earlier Wednesday by Engadget — of the Launcher One rocket using its Cosmic Girl plane. It took five years to get to the point of Sunday’s test, Virgin Orbit said. 

The flight test comes as Virgin Orbit focuses on producing ventilators for the fight against COVID-19. The company also rewrote its working procedures to take into account social distancing guidelines during the spread of the coronavirus.

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