Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said it was “a monumental step forward” for the project. “It’s the capstone to a thorough development program not just for a rocket, but for our carrier aircraft, our ground support equipment, and all of our flight procedures,” he said in a statement.
The Long Beach, California-based company founded by Richard Branson will use the system to launch small satellites — weighing from about 660 to 1,100 pounds (300 to 500 kilograms) — into space.
The 747 — named Cosmic Girl — will fly from multiple locations around the globe, enabling access to orbits that are more difficult to reach from fixed launch sites.
Virgin Orbit recently announced an agreement with ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways, to bring its service to Japan.
The memorandum of understanding calls for ANA to evaluate its capability to provide ground support, maintenance and possibly aircraft.
Virgin Orbit plans its initial launch missions to fly out of Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert.