Virgin Orbit Stories August 3

Virgin Orbit will return to flight as soon as late 2020 with a second demonstration mission aimed at dropping a space-bound LauncherOne rocket from the wing of a 747 plane named Cosmic Girl. The second orbital flight test will include NASA payload this time with 11 small satellites onboard for deployment.

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Virgin Orbit Stories July 16

In a moment when the nation is rethinking how we memorialize historical figures who represent different values than our society today, an important NASA facility located in Mississippi is receiving national attention over its name.

Stennis Space Center is a NASA engine test facility located just north of Interstate I-10 in Hancock County, Mississippi. The NASA site is 39 miles east of NASA’s neighboring Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s not uncommon for engineers and project managers from nearby Slidell, Louisiana, to work at the Mississippi test facility.

The NASA site takes its name from the late Senator John Cornelius Stennis, a celebrated U.S. senator from Mississippi who served in Congress for over 41 years. Mr. Stennis can be described as a proponent of racial segregation based on the senator’s statements and voting record on civil rights policy while in office.

The issue of Stennis Space Center’s name has since been raised to NASA leadership. Today, the possibility of a new name is considered possible, but opposition from statewide and national leadership could be a roadblock.

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Virgin Orbit Stories June 2

The team at Virgin Orbit published a statement this week expressing its support for “peaceful protests and demonstrations” following the death of George Floyd.

The 46-year-old African American died from asphyxiation on Memorial Day after being handcuffed by Minneapolis police and pinned down on the street for almost nine minutes with a knee on his neck. Floyd was stopped for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill.

The loss of George Floyd’s life adds to the heartbreaking list of African Americans who have been been killed at the hands of systemic racism in the last decade alone. From Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice to Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Prejudice in this country is deadly, and despite NASA’s best framing, this weekend’s historic launch may grab the nation’s attention, but the achievement does nothing toward healing the hearts of all who are heartbroken over each new tragedy.

That sentiment is one reflected in Virgin Orbit’s statement. It’s difficult to focus on the challenges of tomorrow without pausing to recognize the challenges of the day.

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Virgin Orbit Stories May 24

Update 5/24/2020 8:37 p.m. EDT: New launch target between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, May 25

Update 5/25/2020 3:56 p.m. EDT: Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket had a clean release from the wing of the Cosmic Girl 747, but the mission terminated shortly after release. Virgin Orbit says the crew and aircraft are safe.

A rocket typically lifts off from a launchpad to move a payload from the ground to somewhere in space, but Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit sees another path to sending orbital vehicles and satellites to low Earth orbit.

How does dropping a rocket into free fall from an airplane named Cosmic Girl before its engines fire off sound?

Virgin Orbit planned to complete the first orbital flight test of its LauncherOne rocket today to demonstrate just that, but a “minor sensor issue” has caused Virgin Orbit to scrub the test flight for Sunday.

The company believes the sensor problem can be resolved with a quick turnaround, however, suggesting a potential Memorial Day orbital flight test for LauncherOne.

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Virgin Orbit Stories March 30

In need of some positive coronavirus news? Try this.

Virgin Orbit has a mission to open space for everyone, and it’s not letting COVID-19 get in the way of that goal. In fact, the Virgin Galactic spinoff is actively working to ease the coronavirus burden on first responders and healthcare workers.

Virgin Orbit announced today that it has designed a “mass-producible ventilator” that it plans to start producing next week.

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