Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, with a rocket under the wing of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner, takes off for a key drop test of its high-altitude launch system for satellites from Mojave, California, July 10, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Virgin Orbit, the rocket company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, successfully put its first satellites into space using its novel air launch system.
The California-headquartered company said that 10 mini-satellites had been carried into space by the same rocket, which was launched from the wing of an old Boeing 747 jumbo jet as it flew over the Pacific Ocean.
The jet, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, took off from Mojave Air and Space Port at approximately 10: 50 a.m. PST on Sunday. Almost 60 minutes later, it dropped the “LauncherOne” rocket about 50 miles south of the California Channel Islands at a height of 35,000 feet.
After release, the rocket engine ignited, accelerating LauncherOne into space at speeds of up to 17,500 miles per hour. Just over an hour later, at an altitude of 500