Virgin Orbit releases rocket from Boeing 747 in mid-air to send satellites to space

Richard Branson said he's 'ready, fit and healthy to go' to space

Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit successfully used its unique mid-air launch system to send commercial satellites into orbit for the first time on Wednesday morning. 

Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747, took off with the 70-foot, 57,000-pound LauncherOne rocket under its left wing around 7 a.m. from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California

The LauncherOne rocket was released at around 35,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, hurtling in its first stage at 8,000 mph before its second stage kicked in and boosted it to 17,500 mph. 

The rocket eventually released seven satellites for the Department of Defense Space Test Program, Poland's SatRevolution, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Virgin Orbit is hopeful that the unique mid-air launch system will allow them to regularly launch satellites into space on short notice. 

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It's the second successful launch for Virgin Orbit this year after the company carried a cluster of satellites for NASA to orbit in January. 

Virgin Orbit's sister company, Virgin Galactic, was greenlighted by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly passengers to space last week. 

Branson will likely be beaten to space by fellow billionaire astronaut-in-training Jeff Bezos, who is planning to go to space with his brother and a $28 million mystery bidder aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket on July 20. 

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Meanwhile, Branson said after Virgin Orbit's satellite launch on Wednesday that his first space flight is still up in the air. 

"All I can say is when the engineers tell me that I can go to space, I’m ready, fit and healthy to go," Branson told the Associated Press. "So we’ll see."