In the penultimate mission before Virgin Orbit offers commercial satellite launch services, the 70-foot (21.34 m) LauncherOne rocket cleanly separated from the jetliner at roughly 35,000 feet, the company said.
The rocket, loaded with water and antifreeze to simulate the weight of fuel, crashed as planned into the Mojave Desert as the jetliner, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, continued on its flight path.
Dan Hart, chief executive officer of Virgin Orbit, told Reuters the test was a "capstone" event on the company's path to making orbital satellite placement "almost routine." "We are now ready for our pre-launch campaign," Hart said.
Assembly of Virgin's first commercial rocket will finish this month, and the company plans to launch test satellites into orbit this summer, he said.
Competition is fierce among Virgin Orbit, Firefly and U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, which are designing smaller or non-traditional systems to inject smaller satellites into orbit and meet growing demand.