Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One rocket failed to reach orbit during its launch on Monday in the United Kingdom from a modified Boeing 747-400 “Cosmic Girl”. Billionaire Richard Branson’s company said it had already begun investigating the incident with the UK Space Agency.
The Boeing 747 with the Virgin rocket took off from Newquay Airport, in the southwest of the United Kingdom, designated as “Spaceport Cornwall”, at around 22:00 (local time) yesterday.
The launch of the rocket took place at about 30,000 feet (9,114 meters) altitude, 70 minutes after liftoff, in airspace southwest of Ireland.
After being released by the aircraft, the Launcher One rocket reached hypersonic speed and the second stage ignition worked until an “anomaly” in the system interrupted the mission “prematurely”, according to Virgin Orbit.
At the time of failure, the rocket was flying at over 17,000 km/h carrying a satellite from the “Start Me Up” program.
Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, admitted the failure in the rocket and said the company will fix the problem. “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.”
The launch of Launcher One in the UK was highly anticipated as it would be the first space mission flown from Western Europe. This was Virgin Orbit’s first rocket failure during a commercial mission. On five other occasions, all carried out in the United States, the system worked successfully.