Virgin Orbit said the first rocket launch from mainland UK failed after the rocket shut down prematurely, preventing LauncherOne from reaching orbit.
The company said the start of the mission went according to plan as its aircraft took off from the spaceport cornwallthe UK’s first site of its kind, at Newquay Airport.
A modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl flew 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean off Ireland’s southern coast just before 11.15pm on Monday.
revisit space mission
There it jettisoned the 21-metre rocket containing nine small satellites that will be the first to be launched into orbit from anywhere in the UK or Western Europe.
But organizers of the Start Me Up mission soon spotted an “anomaly” and said LauncherOne failed to reach orbit.
The company, which was founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017, said in a statement that initial data showed the rocket’s first stage was functioning as planned, reaching space altitude and the separation and ignition of the upper stage In line with expectations.
But later in the mission, at an altitude of about 180 kilometers (112 miles), an anomaly occurred in the upper stage, causing the first burn to end prematurely.
That ended the mission, with rocket components and payloads falling back to Earth within an approved safety corridor, but never reaching orbit, the company said.
It disappointed the roughly 75,000 people who watched the event live, as well as the thousands who made the trek to the Cornwall resort for the launch.
Everything you need to know about Britain’s first rocket launch
The latest failure came after technical problems prevented its first planned takeoff attempt just before Christmas.
But the US-based company is undeterred, adding that it is already in “active discussions” with the government and customers to return to the Cornwall spaceport for another attempt as early as later this year.
‘Space is hard’: After launch disappointment, crowd looks on bright side
Meanwhile, Virgin Orbit has launched a formal investigation into the origins of this week’s failure.
spaceport cornwall is Get licensed in the UK firstbut there could be more in the coming years as corporate demand for launching small satellites increases.
Ian Annette, deputy chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said Snowdonia in North Wales and Glasgow Prestwick Airport were among the seven sites identified.