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Virgin Orbit rocket launches 7 US defense satellites

The modified jumbo jet departs from Mozave Air and Space Port in the Mozave Desert and launches the rocket over the Pacific Ocean northwest of Los Angeles.

A Virgin Orbit rocket carrying seven U.S. Department of Defense satellites was launched from a special Boeing 747 flying off the coast of Southern California and flew into space Friday night.

The modified jumbo jet departs from Mozave Air and Space Port in the Mozave Desert and launches the rocket over the Pacific Ocean northwest of Los Angeles.

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The launch was procured by the U.S. Air Force for a Department of Defense test program. The seven payloads will carry out various experiments.

“And there we have it, folks!” The company tweeted shortly before 1 a.m. local time, about an hour after the rocket separated from the 747. “NewtonFour has successfully re-ignited and put all customer spacecraft into their target orbit.”

This was the fourth commercial launch of Virgin Orbit and the first night launch. The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday night, but that effort was scrubbed due to propellant temperature problems.

The Virgin Orbit mission is named “Straight Up” after the hit of Paula Abdul’s first studio album, “Forever Your Girl”, which was released in 1988 through Virgin Records.

Virgin Orbit was founded in 2017 by British billionaire Richard Branson. It is headquartered in Long Beach, California and currently operates launches from Mozambique Airport but is planning an international mission.

Later this year, the company will launch two satellites on a mission flying from Newquay Airport in Cornwall, England. The satellites will conduct radio signal monitoring tests in a joint project of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense and the US National Reconnaissance Office.




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