Virgin Orbit's rocket completes its first 'captive carry' flight test

It's a crucial step ahead of a full 2019 test launch.

Virgin Orbit just edged closer to its goal of launching rockets in mid-air. The company has completed the first "captive carry" test for its LauncherOne rocket, hauling the 70-foot machine under the wing of Cosmic Girl (its Boeing 747 launch aircraft/Jamiroquai reference) as it flew over southern California. The flight wasn't dramatic, but it provided vital data on how well the two vehicles will behave together when the rocket is ready to fire in earnest.

You'll have to be patient, however. Virgin is planning "several" more flights with and without LauncherOne strapped underneath, culminating in a drop test where Cosmic Girl will let go of a rocket that will freefall to Earth. The first honest-to-goodness space flight won't happen until sometime in early 2019. As we've seen in recent years, Virgin is determined to err on the side of caution before committing to a trip beyond the atmosphere.