Virgin Orbit, before being spun off from human spaceflight-focused Virgin Galactic in March, had set out to complete around three test flights of LauncherOne, before ramping up for commercial operations.
An Orbital ATK Minotaur 4 rocket lifted off from Cape Canveral, Florida, early Saturday morning, carrying the U.S. Defense Department's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite. The launch comes as a debate is flaring up again about whether companies should be able to use converted surplus intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) motors to launch commercial satellites
Italian small satellite builder Sitael has signed Virgin Orbit to send a technology demonstration satellite into low-Earth orbit next year.
Virgin Galactic announced March 2 that it has picked a former Boeing space executive to lead its smallsat launch project, which is being spun out into a separate venture.