This weekend, Virgin Orbit launched its fourth successful mission. “Straight Up” launched from Mojave under the cover of night for the first time. That name may sound familiar as the mission was named after a 1988 Paula Abdul song and included a prep visit from the pop legend herself.
Cosmic Girl and Launcher One delivered a set of payloads to LEO for a US Space Force mission. The mission manifest included seven satellites that will conduct experiments and tech demonstrations. The birds are owned and operated by multiple government agencies under the DoD Space Test Program.
-NASA’s 3U cubesat to detect trace gasses like sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere
-NASA & UC Boulder’s 6U cubesat that will test the ability of a cubesat to measure total solar irradiance
-NASA’s 3U cubesat that will test commercial components for in-space operation navigation
-Dynetics & USASMDC’s pair of 6U cubesats “tactical space support vehicles”
-Cubesats “to demonstrate various capabilities and mission effectiveness” (unspecified agency)
-Air Force Research Laboratory’s cubesat mission that will test adaptive radio-frequency tech in a mesh network
-The Aerospace Corporation & Blue Canyon Technologies’ 12U cubesat carrying 19 tech demonstration payloads
What’s next: The UK government’s investments in space industry activities are finally bearing space fruit. Virgin Orbit’s next launch is set to take off from Spaceport Cornwall sometime this summer. This would mark the first commercial launch from UK soil. “The success of this last launch in California is extremely rewarding for Spaceport Cornwall and the UK space sector,” said Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall.