Virgin Orbit Space Rocket Launched Over the Pacific

An RAF pilot helps launch a rocket into space from over the Pacific Ocean.

Light Lieutenant Matthew “Stanny” Stannard, second for Sir Richard Branson’s satellite launch company Virgin Orbit, is part of a crew that took off for a launch Thursday evening from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California .

She helped work out the rocket’s controls under the company’s LauncherOne system, which was released from a modified Boeing 747-400 named Cosmic Girl.

Just before 11 p.m. Virgin Orbit confirmed on a livestream that “LauncherOne is in space”.

Virgin Orbit tweeted: “Looks like we made it above the clouds and on our way to orbit. It’s a beauty here!”

He said: “The blue has turned black. LauncherOne is in space.”

Flt Lieutenant Stannard, a Typhoon pilot with one of the RAF’s test and evaluation squadrons, is part of a crew of Cosmic Girl with Chief Pilot Eric Bipert, who has over 1,000 hours of experience in test flights, as well as There are also launch engineers Sarah Barnes and Bryce Schaefer. ,

Their role was to monitor data from aircraft and rockets from their stations on the upper deck.

Virgin Orbit tweeted “we are now on the rise” after flying for about an hour to the Pacific Ocean drop point, where LauncherOne will be released to begin powered flight into orbit.

Sir Richard Branson said he was “excited” and “a bit nervous” after watching the take-off.

He said: “You can never be sure in these early flights whether every mission is going to be successful, (I’m) just on the edge of my seat.

“It’s unbelievable what the whole team has achieved.

“It’s always incredible to see and a great privilege.”

Sir Richard said: “I think those who question space exploration don’t realize how much it offers to mankind on Earth. One of our satellites that is going up today is agriculture around the world. and monitor the crops.

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Flight Lieutenant Matthew “Stanny” Stannard (Sack Ben Mayfield/MOD/PA)

“It’s an amazing variety of different organizations and different companies that have great ideas to try to use space for better things on Earth.”

Virgin Orbit has stated that the mission’s name, Above the Clouds, pays homage to hip hop group Gang Starr’s 1998 album Moment of Truth, on which the lyrics of the song Above the Clouds are: “Above the clouds, where the sounds are original. – Create infinite skill miracles.”

The rocket carries seven satellites, some of which are being used by the US Department of Defense in space-based communications.

The mission is the third for Sir Richard’s company – LauncherOne Systems has launched the first 19 satellites.

In the Above the Clouds mission, a satellite is built in Glasgow by Spire Global, a data analytics company that tracks weather patterns.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the return of Flt Lt Stannard to the RAF will help increase the UK’s understanding of the military’s use of small satellites.

The airman, who graduated from RAF officer training in May 2007, has spent over 1,000 hours on Tornados during several combat trips.

Flt Lt. Stannard said in his secondment in 2019 that “joining Virgin Orbit’s space program is a truly unique opportunity”.

He continued: “This program is pushing the boundaries of our understanding of space, so it is a real privilege to be a part of it and I look forward to bringing the skills and knowledge I have acquired back to the RAF.”