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Totally Tubular: Update on Our Next Launch

In our previous update, where we revealed the name and customer manifest of our upcoming mission to space, Tubular Bells, Part One, our next rocket was still in the factory undergoing final checkouts. Since then, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks as the team has pushed the gas pedal on our pre-launch campaign activities.

LauncherOne Arrives in Mojave

Already, we’ve shipped LauncherOne up to Mojave Air and Space Port, where it is now comfortably mated to Cosmic Girl’s left wing. There, we’ve been hard at work running final integrated tests — the highlight of which being a hugely successful cryoload just last week.

Cryoload is the first time we load cryogenic propellants (i.e. liquid oxygen) onto the rocket and fully pressurize the system all the way up to flight-like levels. During this test, we were able to achieve all of our planned objectives, including 100% LOX and fuel fill and nominal pressurization of all high-pressure gas systems with no tank leakage.

That smooth cryoload has given us the confidence to sail right into wet dress rehearsal in the coming days. Like every rocket, wet dress rehearsal is the one big hurdle prior to launch, serving as an opportunity to run through all combined launch operations up until takeoff. If all looks good, we’ll be in the clear to push forward and commit to launch. 

Currently, the stars are aligning for our launch window to open during the last week of June.

Payload Integration

While part of the team has been laser-focused on preparing the rocket for flight in Mojave, other folks have been working to ensure our small passengers are also ready for their journey to space.

We recently completed final integration for all of the satellites flying onboard LauncherOne during this mission — a total of 7 spacecraft from the Department of Defense Space Test Program, SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The Royal Netherland Air Force’s BRIK-II satellite undergoes a final inspection prior to integration.

SatRevolution’s STORK-4 satellite being inserted into its dispenser. 

Although Covid-related travel restrictions prevented a couple of the payload teams from visiting Long Beach in person, we were proud to have been able to provide a fun, interactive virtual experience as we conducted final inspections and tucked their spacecraft into their dispensers.

We’ll be sending that integrated payload stack up to Mojave to join the rest of the system very soon. As before, we’ll mate the payload fairing to LauncherOne using a specialized trailer — the same process we’ll utilize as we begin to conduct missions from launch sites around the world.

Final Countdown to Launch

Reminder: We’re so excited to bring you live views from Mojave on launch day with our first official mission livestream, available via our YouTube page. From interviews with customers to a deep dive into our patch design process, there’s no better way to get the full story behind this launch. Don’t miss out!

As part of our quest to ensure no one is excluded from space, we’ll also provide our audience with some additional accessibility options during the livestream, including live closed-captioning and an on-screen American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

Alternatively, you can follow along as we live-tweet the mission @VirginOrbit.

As always, we’ll share more technical updates as our launch window gets closer. In the meantime, stay in the loop by following us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.