LauncherOne departed from a Mojave lane located under the wing of a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, called Cosmic Girl. When the aircraft reached about 35,000 feet, the typical cross-height of commercial aircraft, the rocket was released. It then forged into the ground in a test area at Edward's Air Force Base.
During operational missions, the LauncherOne rocket would burn its engine shortly after detaching from Cosmic Girl's wing and continuing to fly in orbit to extinguish satellites for Virgin Orbit's customers. But for the drop test, a dummy rocket was used to simulate the entire commercial air experience ̵
CEO Dan Hart told CNN Business on Wednesday after the flight that the first data reported on the test "was absolutely perfect."
"We're really locked in, from this afternoon to focus on our first orbital rocket and get the plane and equipment ready," Hart said.
Smallsats big business
The company says its LauncherOne rocket will be able to put 500 kg or 1,100 pounds in orbit – enough lift capacity for a series of small satellites or  smallsats .
As satellite technology has become cheaper, the demand for cheaper and more frequent rocket launches has swelled. Numerous startups try to answer this demand by building cheap, lightweight rockets that will be dedicated to launching miniature satellites.
The company stands apart from its rivals by choosing an air-launched rocket. The vast majority of launch vehicles retract vertically from a ground-based cushion.
Flying a rocket to a high altitude before the burning of the engine can improve vehicle efficiency. It doesn't have to waste fuel that cuts through the thickest parts of the atmosphere.
But there are also disadvantages. As it lights up in the middle of the air, engineers cannot make last-minute adjustments to the rocket if something goes wrong. And there is the added risk of enclosing the large rocket, full of flammable propellants, on a human pilot plane. (Kelly Latimer, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Air Force, Cosmic Girl Pilots.)
Virgin Orbit was not part of this deal. But Hart, CEO, told CNN Business that the company is looking for a cash inflow. He said his team has been "involved in some investor discussions as we started earlier this year."