Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Virgin Orbit’s Launch Demo Is Right Around the Corner

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Virgin Orbit is about to embark on the first ever launch demo of its rocket, LauncherOne.

This rocket has a somewhat distinctive air-launch to orbit strategy that, if successful, could

offer a faster, cheaper and more flexible way for small satellites to be sent into orbit.

And theres a lot riding on this upcoming test, Virgin Orbit just secured a $35 million

deal with the U.S. Space Force to launch 44 small satellites spread across three missions.

No pressure.

And although it only deals with small payloads,

LauncherOne is still an impressive design. Its an expendable two stage rocket, measuring

about 21-meters long. Its structure is an all carbon composite design, which reduces

the structural weight of the rocket. This allows the rocket to carry up to 500 kg of

cargo to orbit. And in the world of small satellites, that could mean launching dozens

on a single mission. The company joins an already crowded field

of rocket companies competing to inject small satellites into low-Earth orbit, but Virgin

Orbit hopes to stand out thanks to its different approach used by only a handful of companies

to give rockets a shortcut as they make their way to orbit.

The first stage of our launch system is a Boeing 747. So that's one big difference.

That gets us 35,000 feet of altitude and close to Mach 1, before a rocket engine ever ignites.

And by the time the rocket does ignite, the 747 jet has already cleared the lower parts

of the atmosphere. This helps the rocket avoid the kind of drag experienced by vertically

fired rockets. But the most exciting aspect of the system is launch flexibility. Unlike

your typical rocket that depends on a launch pad, Virgin Orbits 747 jet named Cosmic

Girl, only needs a runway for takeoff. After takeoff, the aircraft flies out over

the ocean, reaching an altitude of about 10,600 meters. Before LauncherOne drops from beneath Cosmic Girl,

the pilot performs a pitch-up maneuver, positioning the plane at an almost 30 degree

angle relative to the Earth. From there, the rocket is released, free falling for roughly

five seconds before its NewtonThree engine roars to life. After about 3 minutes, the

first stage separates and the second stages engine continues onward. Soon after, the fairing

pops off as a series of engine shut offs are initiated to place the cargo in the desired

orbit. Once there, the small satellite is deployed and second stage plummets, burning

up in the atmosphere. To ensure everything is ready for the big

demo, a number of tests and rehearsals have been ongoing to ensure all aspects of the

launch system are finally good to go. From engine hot fire tests, to ground operations

system checks and a flight drop test. On the one hand, it feels like you're running

a marathon and you're towards the end of the marathon. And in that, you can look back and

think back of all of the miles, all of the aches and pains and soreness that you felt

here or there. And feel a sense of pride that you worked through those, and you're moving

forward. And at the same time, you know that some of the most intense times are just ahead.

And thats because theres a lot riding on this demo. If successful, Virgin Orbit

could become a major player when it comes to placing small satellites into orbit, an

industry thats seen a recent explosion. Small satellites have a couple of really unique

roles. The ability to do real work in space in small forms is enabling a

whole host of participants in space, who never before could have afforded it. We now have

the ability where businesses, educational institutions, countries who never would have

thought of investing in space, and using space capabilities, can now put it into their plans.

So far, Virgin Orbit has a number of locations strategically chosen to help LauncherOne reach

multiple low-earth orbit sites. And if all works out, Virgin Orbit could soon be ready

for its first launch with a payload onboard.

There's an incredible focus and sort of hunkering down with the team to sort of almost meditate

on the system, the tests that we've done, the analysis, to make sure we're fully connected

and driving forward together. If you want to catch up on some more rocket

launches, check out our playlist here. If theres another launch youd like us to

cover, let us know in the comments below. Make sure to subscribe and thanks for watching.

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