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Virgin Orbit now targeting Sunday for 1st spaceflight

Virgin Orbit's carrier plane, Cosmic Girl, hauls the company's LauncherOne rocket aloft on the Launch Demo mission on May 25, 2020. LauncherOne did not reach orbit on the flight.
Virgin Orbit's carrier plane, Cosmic Girl, hauls the company's LauncherOne rocket aloft on the Launch Demo mission on May 25, 2020. LauncherOne did not reach orbit on the flight.
(Image: © Virgin Orbit via Twitter)

We'll have to wait until this weekend to see Virgin Orbit take another crack at reaching space.

The company is now targeting Sunday (Jan. 17) for Launch Demo 2, its second attempt to reach orbit with its air-launched LauncherOne rocket.  (The booster didn't make it on its first try, which occurred in May 2020.)

If all goes according to plan, Virgin Orbit's carrier plane, Cosmic Girl, will lift off from California's Mojave Air and Space Port on Sunday during a four-hour window that opens at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT; 10 a.m. local time in California), with LauncherOne tucked beneath one wing. 

In photos: Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket for satellite missions

At an altitude of about 35,000 feet (10,700 meters), LauncherOne will drop free and make its own way to orbit. You can follow the mission's progress via Virgin Orbit's Twitter feed.

Virgin Orbit had been eyeing mid-December for Launch Demo 2, but complications arising from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic pushed the date to Jan. 10. Last week, the company announced that the target had slipped to Jan. 13. And we got another update on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

"Our Launch Readiness Review is complete, our hardware looks great, and our customers are ready. We're following through on the last actions identified at our LRR. Our launch is now targeted for NET [no earlier than] Sunday, Jan. 17, with additional windows in January if needed," Virgin Orbit said via Twitter on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

You can read more about Launch Demo 2 in our preview story from last week.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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