Virgin Orbit is closer than ever to its goal of launching orbital satellites from a platform carried aboard a modified 747 aircraft. The company flew a successful cryogenic captive carry test of its LauncherOne rocket, carried by the Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft. This test marks the first time that the LauncherOne flew aboard the aircraft fully fueled with RP-1, though it used liquid nitrogen instead of liquid oxygen as an additional safety precaution.
This is an important test because it simulates the real thermal conditions the rocket would undergo during the actual demo launch, since all prior flights have just used water in place of fuel. That’s good for simulating carry weight, but water is much warmer than rocket fuel, which means it isn’t an accurate representation of actual mission conditions.