With cheers from Virgin Orbit engineers, Cosmic Girl’s first touchdown Monday at Long Beach Airport heralded the city’s next role in aviation history.
Cosmic Girl, a 747-400 jumbo jet that once flew commercial passengers for Virgin Atlantic, is being modified to carry and fire a LauncherOne rocket from the air — revolutionizing the way satellites are sent into orbit.
The repurposed 16-year-old jet, which was built by Boeing, landed in Long Beach for the first time, shortly after 4 p.m. Monday. With the words “FLIGHT TEST” printed on its fuselage, the jet has already undergone some modifications, with more to come, and flight testing set to begin soon, according to Virgin Orbit President Dan Hart.
“We’re here to redefine launch site,” Hart, a former Boeing executive, said. “We’re going to shatter that definition.”
Virgin Orbit, which is based in Long Beach and has about 300 employees here attached to the LauncherOne project, has plans to place Cosmic Girl’s main launch site at Mojave Air & Space Port, northwest of Edwards Air Force Base.
Some of those employees, wearing shirts with “Boost Imagination” written on the back, gathered on the tarmac Monday to watch Cosmic Girl’s landing. Hart called the moment monumental and a major milestone for the company, which set up shop this year in part of Long Beach’s Douglas Park complex — where Boeing crews used to build B-17s, 717s, C-17s and other aircraft.
Hart thanked the Long Beach Airport, Mayor Robert Garcia and other city leaders for making the…
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