Virgin Orbit Launch Failed Cause Of ‘Anomaly’
We’ll just have to wait a little while longer. Virgin Orbit was supposed to usher in a new era of spaceflight for the UK.
The Rolling Stones’ 1981 song “Start Me Up” served as the inspiration for the name of the inaugural LauncherOne mission, which successfully launched on Monday night from Cornwall Airport Newquay, England (also known as Spaceport Cornwall).
Unfortunately, the flight ran into a “anomaly” hours later and failed to enter orbit.
Before departing at 10 p.m. GMT, Virgin’s modified Boeing 747 “Cosmic Girl” met all pre-launch requirements. The mission’s target orbit was somewhere around 555 km/SSO.
The mission appeared to be in excellent shape after Virgin confirmed LauncherOne’s clean separation from Cosmic Girl and the flawless ignition of NewtonThree, the first stage rocket engine. Two hours after launch, at around midnight GMT, LauncherOne made its official entry into space.
The upper stage shut down as expected, prepared to fly halfway around the world before re-igniting the engine to carry out the mission’s objectives and release the satellite payload. Unfortunately, Virgin tweeted that “some abnormality that has delayed us from reaching orbit” while we were waiting for this stage. Cosmic Girl, meanwhile, arrived back at the spaceport unharmed.
You can relive the debut thanks to Virgin’s live YouTube stream if you skip to the 35-minute mark below. The Guardian reports that 2,000 people attended the event in Cornwall.
If the mission is successful, it will be the first commercial launch from western Europe and the first launch of satellites from British territory. Additionally, Virgin Orbit is launching for the first time outside of the United States after a successful launch in 2021.
“The missions of these satellites span a wide range of activities aimed at enhancing life on planet Earth,” says Virgin. “These activities include minimizing the environmental impact of industry; combating unlawful trafficking, smuggling, and terrorism; and a plethora of national security tasks.”
The Virgin Orbit launch from England represents a historic occasion for spaceflight in the UK even though it did not achieve orbit. As part of the National Space Strategy, more spaceports are being built in Scotland and Wales under the direction of the UK Space Agency.
Unfortunately for Virgin, the rocket’s failure to reach orbit caused shares of Virgin Orbit to drop as much as 30% in after-hours trade, according to CNBC.