Virgin Orbit is preparing to launch its next space mission, with a target window at the end of this month. This will be the first time Virgin Orbit has flown after its first successful orbital launch in January, and it carries seven small satellites on behalf of customers including the US Department of Defense and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. It will also be the first time anyone will be able to watch Virgin Galactic’s trip to space live, as the company is broadcasting the mission via YouTube.
Previously, Virgin Orbit had chosen not to provide live video of its flights, choosing instead to provide a feed of text-based updates through its social media channels. The YouTube stream is expected to provide unprecedented views of Virgin’s launch process, which includes transporting its small Launcher One rocket to high altitude for a mid-air launch from the wing of a modified Boeing 747 carrier plane.
Live streaming launches are pretty much de rigueur in the space industry at this point, especially among the crop of so-called “space news” companies that include SpaceX, Rocket Lab, and Blue Origin. SpaceX even did this throughout its Starship development process, which is unusual as it has aired a number of failures in addition to its successes.
Virgin Orbit’s new aircraft-assisted launch process should mean its feeds offer a unique perspective on the vertical take-off group, so it’s probably worth keeping an eye out for this one.