Launch Spotlight: Virgin Orbit’s first 2022 launch of its LauncherOne vehicle

After becoming a publically traded company last week, Richard Branson’s commercial launch provider, Virgin Orbit, is preparing for its first launch of 2022. Onboard will be four payloads from both civil and commercial entities. Continuing on with fun names Virgin Orbit has given its mission, this one is called “Above the Clouds.”

Launch Date: Wednesday, January 12, ~5:00 p.m. EST (Takeoff: ~4:00 p.m. EST)

Rocket: Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne

Payload: Four rideshare payloads

Launch Pad: Cosmic Girl (air launch)

Destination: Low Earth Orbit

Landing Site: LauncherOne is an expendable rocket

What is Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket?

Virgin Orbit has a unique way of getting its customer’s payloads into space. Hung on the port wing of a Boeing 747, the LauncherOne rocket is the first liquid-fueled air-launched rocket. It consists of two stages, fueled using RP-1 and liquid oxygen like the Falcon 9 and Atlas V. LauncherOne catches a ride on Cosmic Girl, which can take off from almost any runway in the world – allowing Virgin Orbit to have a wide range of options for launch locations.

Shortly after takeoff, Cosmic Girl will fly out over the Pacific Ocean and enter what the company calls a “race track.” The 747 will then circle an area, with each pass allowing for a launch opportunity. Once conditions and the rocket are ready, Cosmic Girl will pitch up before releasing and igniting the rocket. Cosmic Girl has launched three times, with two being successful, having a 67% success rate.

Above the Clouds payloads

  • STP-27VPB – Department of Defense / NASA
  • STORK-3 – SatRevolution
  • SteamSat-2 – SatRevolution
  • Adler-1 – Spire Global

Where to watch

Of course, the best views of the launch will come from Virgin Orbit’s livestream. It will go live on the company’s YouTube channel an hour and a half before the expected launch.

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