Virgin Orbit looking to conduct second LauncherOne mission in December

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a local notice to mariners on November 24, that between Dec. 18 and 21, Virgin Orbit would be conducting “hazardous operations” offshore from San Nicolas Island, California, during a four-hour window, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Virgin Orbit looking to conduct second LauncherOne mission in December
Virgin Orbit looking to conduct second LauncherOne mission in December

Virgin Orbit looking to conduct second LauncherOne mission in December

Virgin Orbit will conduct a second flight of its LauncherOne small launch vehicle, carrying a set of NASA-sponsored cubesats, in the latter half of December. The U.S. Coast Guard issued a local notice to mariners on November 24, that between Dec. 18 and 21, Virgin Orbit would be conducting “hazardous operations” offshore from San Nicolas Island, California, during a four-hour window, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern, reported SpaceNews.

While the notice does not specify that a launch will take place, Virgin Orbit had sent an extremely similar Coast Guard notice for its first orbital launch attempt in May. The earlier notice also cited “hazardous operations,” besides having the same four-hour window and location for the operations. The company has not confirmed a formal launch date, but has said that a second launch would be conducted before the end of the year.

Earlier this month, the LauncherOne rocket was shipped from Virgin Orbit’s factory in Long Beach, California, to the Mojave Air and Space Port, for what is being called the Launch Demo 2 mission. According to a November 13 update by the company, the rocket was then attached to its Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. The first LauncherOne launch on May 25 failed after the rocket’s NewtonThree first-stage engine shut down, after ignition.

The failure of a liquid oxygen propellant line was found to be responsible. Unlike the first launch, the upcoming Launch Demo 2 mission will also carry 10 cubesats, sponsored by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative program. The operation is a part of a Venture Class Launch Services contract it won from NASA in 2015, to demonstrate new small launch vehicles.

Meanwhile, Astra has also announced its second orbital launch attempt during a 12-day window starting from Dec. 7 at Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska on Kodiak Island. Firefly Aerospace, another small launch vehicle developer, had also been looking to conduct the first launch of its Alpha small launch vehicle from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, in December. However, that launch has now been postponed to no earlier than January.