Orbital Focus - International Spaceflight Facts and Figures
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Launches and Orbital Operations


Tyneside, UK
2023 Jan 29
Sunday, Day 29

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Cosmic Girl Rehearsal

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Background

In a note to the Seesat-L satellite observers discussion group, John Locker provided details of a test flight by Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft. It flew out of Newquay Airport, UK and followed a race-track pattern over the Atlantic Ocean to the south of Ireland as a dress rehearsal for the planned flight when Virgin's LauncherOne will be released on its actual mission.


Launch Rehearsal

The launch rehearsal part of the flight was a rectangular pattern aligned north-east to south-west with the straight southbound leg centred on 51° north, 12° west. It pointed to azimuth 192°, just to the west of south.

At 51° north, 192° azimuth aligns with a sun-synchronous inclination of 97°.6. It equates to an orbital altitude of about 550 kilometres. Internet research on the manifested payloads confirms this to be the aim.

The flight's timing (see below) probably does not reflect the actual launch time on the day. It would have resulted in LTDN at 20:30 which is not a well-used sun-synchronous slot.

The launch track and initial orbit steers away from all significant land masses, passing to the west of Africa and threading neatly between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde group In the event of LauncherOne not achieving orbital velocity it will fall into the Atlantic Ocean.


Cosmic Girl Flight Track

Cosmic Girl took off from Newquay at 19:28 UTC on December 2. It then flew westward to the launch rehearsal area and entered the clockwise 'race-track' at 20:08. After almost one circuit of the track it probably performed a simulated release of the rocket at about 20:24.

It then headed back towards Newquay, performed a series of manoeuvres including another race-track off the Bristol Channel before arriving home at 22:36.

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Page Date - 2022 Dec 3

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