Virgin Orbit planned to conduct its second Launch Demo mission before the end of the year, but the spread of COVID-19 forced the team to halt pre-flight work this month. After following recommended safety guidelines, the team at Virgin Orbit is back on track, the company shared today. Virgin Orbit’s launch approach involves dropping a space-bound rocket called LauncherOne from the wing of a 747 plane named Cosmic Girl.
Back in May, VO conducted its first launch demonstration mission in which the team successfully deployed LauncherOne from Cosmic Girl. LauncherOne terminated the mission shortly after a clean release from Cosmic Girl, however, due to what the team later confirmed to be a component failure.
The second Launch Demo mission will include NASA payloads in the form of 11 small satellites supplied through the space agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The company says it has resumed work ahead of the test mission and wrapped up the wet dress rehearsal. New test dates aren’t official yet, but VO expects the window to open around mid-January.
Update from Mojave: as our teammates cleared their preventative quarantines, we got back into our pre-launch operations. Sunday and Monday, we completed our final wet dress rehearsal — the last big test we had planned prior to our launch.
Our policies around social distancing were strict before, but we’ve since implemented even more extreme measures to ensure the health and safety of our team. A full 2/3rds of the small crew who were on-site for our previous WDR supported this latest rehearsal remotely.
Our hardware is basically ready to go, as is our team. We are working with our partners in government and with our customers to identify our new candidate launch windows. We’ll publish new dates as soon as they are final, but currently, the window is likely to be mid-January.
Finally: to all of our friends, neighbors, and families, we wish you a joyous, safe, socially distanced, disinfected holiday season. As 2020 winds down and we all prepare to enter a new chapter, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones — and wear a mask!
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