Virgin Orbit rocket launches 7 US defense satellites

LOS ANGELES– A Virgin Orbit rocket carrying US Department of Defense satellites launched from a special Boeing 747 off the coast of southern California and headed into space on Friday evening.

The modified jumbo lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and dropped the rocket over the Pacific Ocean northwest of Los Angeles.

The launch was purchased by the US Space Force for a Department of Defense test program. The seven payloads will conduct various experiments.

It was Virgin Orbit’s fourth commercial launch and first night launch. The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday evening, but that attempt was canceled due to a propellant temperature issue.

Virgin Orbit named the mission “Straight Up” after the success of Paula Abdul’s debut studio album “Forever Your Girl”, released by Virgin Records in 1988.

Virgin Orbit was founded in 2017 by British billionaire Richard Branson. It is headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., and currently conducts launches from Mojave Airport, but plans international missions.

Later this year, the company will launch two satellites on a mission from Newquay Airport in Cornwall, England. The satellites will carry out radio signal monitoring tests as part of a joint project between the UK Ministry of Defense and the US National Reconnaissance Office.

ABC News

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