British billionaire Richard Branson’s galactic aspirations have taken a step forward after his rocket launch company successfully completed a test flight of a Boeing 747 designed to launch satellites into orbit. Virgin Orbit’s plane, Cosmic Girl, took to the Californian skies for an 80 minutes on November 18 with a 70-foot-long rocket, called Launcher One, strapped under its wing, the company wrote in a statement.
It’s a milestone for the company that plans to provide an affordable launch service for small satellites by using rockets launched in mid-air from commercial aircraft.
It’ll also lift confidence in Branson’s wider ambitions, which include taking tourists to the edge of space.
“It marks the first time a 747 has carried a rocket, let alone a space rocket,” Branson wrote in a blog post, adding that the test flight was “a big step forward for the company as we look forward to reaching orbit in early 2019.”