Launching a rocket into space from a high-flying Boeing 747 eliminates much of the energy needed to send a payload into orbit, and could result in much cheaper commercial rocket launches compared to conventional methods.
Virgin Orbit has been investigating the ‘drop-launch’ option and has now successfully completed its first rocket drop test, paving the way for a real launch later this year.
The company loaded a rocket onto its Boeing 747 launch aircraft – dubbed Cosmic Girl – and dropped a ‘dummy’ LauncherOne rocket while in flight over the Mojave desert. Virgin stated on Twitter that following this successful test, it would ramp up its efforts to launch a real rocket into space from the Boeing 747.
The company plans to begin testing live launches later this year, after which it plans to deliver commercial orbital launches for satellite operators.