A Virgin Orbit rocket carrying seven US Defense Department satellites launched from a special Boeing 747 taking off from the Southern California coast and headed for space Friday night.
The modified jumbo jet took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and launched the rocket over the Pacific Ocean northwest of Los Angeles.
The launch was purchased by the US Space Force for the Defense Department’s test program. The seven payloads will carry out various experiments.
“And there we have it, guys!” The company tweeted shortly before 1:00 a.m. local time, about an hour after the rocket separated from the 747. “Newtonfour successfully reignited and deployed all customer spacecraft into their target orbit.”
This was Virgin Orbit’s fourth commercial launch and the first night launch. The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday night, but that effort was scrapped due to a propellant temperature problem.
Virgin Orbit named the mission “Straight Up”, after the hit on Paula Abdul’s debut studio album “Forever Your Girl”, which was released in 1988 through Virgin Records.
Virgin Orbit was founded in 2017 by British billionaire Richard Branson. It is headquartered in Long Beach, California, and currently launches from Mojave Airport, but is planning an international mission.
Later this year, the company will launch two satellites on a mission taking off from Newquay Airport in Cornwall, England. The satellites will conduct radio signal surveillance tests in a joint project of the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense and the US National Reconnaissance Office.
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