The venerable Boeing 747-400 may be best known as a passenger plane, but thanks to entrepreneur Richard Branson, it's now a key part of the Virgin Orbit private space program.
A 747 named "Cosmic Girl" completed an unusual test flight Sunday in Southern California by going for a cruise with a 70-foot-long (21-meter) rocket attached under its wing.
Virgin Orbit is a Virgin Galactic spinoff that'sto launch rockets from a 747 rather than from the ground. The system is designed to get small satellites into space quickly and cheaply.
"It marks the first time a 747 has carried a rocket, let alone a space rocket, in its 70-year history and is a big step forward for the company as we look forward to reaching orbit in early 2019," Branson wrote in a blog post.
Virgin Orbit's 747 was once a passenger jet, but it's been customized to act as a flying launch pad for the company's carbon-fiber rocket.
While Virgin Orbit is making strides toward getting satellites into orbit, Virgin Galactic is continuing on its quest to launch tourists into space.
in May, with in early October he expects the company to be in space "within weeks."