Credit: Virgin Orbit

LauncherOne is an "air-launched" rocket developed by the aerospace company Virgin Orbit. Unlike other launchers, the LauncherOne rocket is not launched from a traditional launch pad but from under the wing of a modified Boeing 747 that first raises the rocket to an altitude of about eleven kilometers. LauncherOne was specially designed to bring small satellites such as cubesats or smallsats with a maximum weight of 500 kilograms into low Earth orbit (LEO). The LauncherOne rocket was launched for the first time in May 2020 and will be airborne from various locations on Earth in the future. Learn all about the different launches of the commercial LauncherOne rocket from the space company Virgin Orbit thanks to this handy overview! 

Launch overview LauncherOne

No. Date launch Rocket Launch base Orbit Payload Patch Mission succes?
1 25/05/2020 LEO
  • USA Starshine 4 (NASA)
  • USA INTERN-SAT (Virgin Orbit)


2 17/01/2021 LEO
  • USA CACTUS-1 (Capitol Technology University)
  • USA CAPE-3 (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
  • USA MiTEE (University of Michigan)
  • USA PIC 1 (Brigham Young University)
  • USA PIC 2 (Brigham Young University)
  • USA PolarCube (Colorado Space Grant Consortium)
  • USA Q-PACE (University of Central Florida)
  • USA RadFXSat-2 (Vanderbilt University / AMSAT)
  • USA TechEdSat-7 (University of Idaho / NASA)
  • USA Prometheus-2.8 (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
  • USA Prometheus-2.11 (Los Alamos National Laboratory)


3 30/06/2021 LEO
  • USA CNCE 1 (MDA)
  • USA CNCE-3 (MDA)
  • USA HALO-Net FFS (US Navy)
  • USA Gunsmoke-J 4 (SMDC)
  • Netherlands BRIK-II (Royal Netherlands Air Force)
  • Poland STORK-4 (SatRevolution S.A.)
  • Poland STORK-5 (SatRevolution S.A.)


4 13/01/2022 LEO
  • USA PAN-A (Cornell University)
  • USA PAN-B (Cornell University)
  • UK SteamSat-2 (SteamJet Space Systems)
  • Poland STORK-3 (SatRevolution S.A.)
  • USA GEARRS 3 (NearSpace Launch)
  • USA TechEdSat 13 (NASA Ames)


5 02/07/2022 LEO
  • USA Recurve (AFRL)
  • USA Slingshot 1 (The Aerospace Corporation)
  • USA Gunsmoke-L 1 (SMDC)
  • USA NACHOS 2 (Los Alamos National Lab.)
  • USA MISR-B 1 (Special Operations Command)
  • USA CTIM-FD (University of Colorado at Boulder)
  • USA GPX 2(NASA Langley Research Center)


5 09/01/2023 LEO
  • UK AMBER 1 (Catapult)
  • UK Prometheus 2A (DSTL)
  • UK Prometheus 2B (DSTL)
  • UK DOVER (RHEA Group)
  • UK ForgeStar 0 (Space Forge)
  • UK Aman 1 (ETCO)
  • Poland STORK 6 (SatRevolution S.A.)


On March 16, 2023, Virgin Orbit announced a pausing of operations and furloughing of nearly its entire staff, while seeking additional funding. Causes for the event are cited as both capital management and technical. Virgin Orbit recorded a loss of US$139.5 million for the first nine months of 2022. Assets were divested to three major bidders in May 2023: Rocket Lab acquired the company's Long Beach facility, manufacturing and tooling assets for $16 million, Launcher purchased the company's Mojave test site for $3 million, and the Cosmic Girl aircraft was sold to Stratolaunch Systems for $17 million. An additional $3.8 million in assets were sold to Firefly Aerospace on June 15.

Images: Virgin Orbit

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Kris Christiaens

This article was published by FutureSpaceFlight founder and chief editor Kris Christiaens. Kris Christiaens has been passionate and fascinated by spaceflight and space exploration all his life and has written hundreds of articles on space projects, the commercial space industry and space missions over the past 20 years for magazines, books and websites. In late 2021, he founded the website FutureSpaceFlight with the goal of promoting new space companies and commercial space projects and compiling news of these start-ups and companies on one website.