Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One Fails to Reach Orbit

Yesterday we reported Virgin Orbit’s rocket launch, which was set to mark a momentous occasion not only for the company, but for the entire United Kingdom. This was the first time a rocket had ever been launched from UK soil, and it marks a significant step forward for the country’s burgeoning space industry, propelling the UK as a key player in the global space market.

However, things didn’t go quite to plan as the Launcher One rocket failed to reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit Launcher One
The Launcher One rocket which failed to reach orbit (c) Virgin Orbit

What Happened?

After successfully taking off from the runway at Spaceport Cornwall – which just a few weeks ago was transformed from a slab of empty cement at a commercial airport to the world’s newest space launch operations center – and travelling to the designated drop zone, Cosmic Girl, the customized 747 that serves as the LauncherOne system’s carrier aircraft, successfully released the rocket from underneath its wing.

The rocket then ignited its engines, quickly going hypersonic and successfully reaching the boundary marking space. The flight then continued through successful stage separation and ignition of the second stage. However, at some point during the firing of the rocket’s second stage engine and with the rocket travelling at a speed of more than 11,000 miles per hour, the system experienced an anomaly, ending the mission prematurely.

The company has put this down to “an anomaly” and said a thorough investigation will take place prior to any further action. This is the first of five Virgin Orbit launches to fail to reach orbit.

Speaking to the media, Dan Hart CEO of Virgin Orbit said:

“While we are very proud of the many things that we successfully achieved as part of this mission, we are mindful that we failed to provide our customers with the launch service they deserve. The first-time nature of this mission added layers of complexity that our team professionally managed through; however, in the end a technical failure appears to have prevented us from delivering the final orbit. We will work tirelessly to understand the nature of the failure, make corrective actions, and return to orbit as soon as we have completed a full investigation and mission assurance process.”

We, along with the rest of the UK, await further updates from Virgin Orbit’s investigation, and look forward to reporting the rescheduled mission.

What are your thoughts on Virgin Orbit? Let us know in the comments below!

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