Private launch provider Virgin Orbit has completed a full thrust, full duration static fire test of the company’s LauncherOne rocket. The static fire test was the last major milestone to be completed before the vehicle’s maiden orbital mission.
“Simply put, there are no “firsts” remaining for us on the ground,” stated a Virgin Orbit press release published on May 21. “Every single part of the system – whether that’s hardware, software or processes – has now been demonstrated on our test stands.”
The static fire test was conducted on a test stand at Virgin Orbit’s Mojave facility. During the test, the LauncherOne rocket’s core stage was fired at full thrust for a full duration burn. The three-minute burn will eventually power the vehicle from its drop point to the edge of space. Stage separation will then occur at which point the rocket’s second stage will place the payload into its designated orbit.
Virgin Orbit began development of the LauncherOne in 2007. The two-stage liquid-fueled rocket will be carried to its launch altitude on the left wing of a modified Boeing 747 designated Cosmic Girl. The rocket is designed to carry payloads of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) to a 500-kilometre (310-mile) Sun-synchronous orbit at a cost of approximately $12 million.
The maiden launch of the LauncherOne is expected in the second half of 2019.