UK's first space launch fails: Virgin Orbit rocket and satellites lost

January 10, 2023  15:00

The first-ever space launch from the UK failed, and Virgin Orbit lost 9 satellites that it wanted to launch into space using an air-launched rocket.

As a result of the failure of the mission, Virgin Orbit shares depreciated by 25%, and the UK missed the opportunity to become a member of the club of space powers.

A modified Boeing 747 aircraft, dubbed Cosmic Girl, took off from a spaceport in southern Cornwall, UK at 22:02 local time (02:02 Yerevan time) with a LauncherOne launch vehicle. At an altitude of more than 10,000 meters, when the aircraft was over the southwest coast of Ireland, the rocket successfully separated from the aircraft and turned on the main engine, after which, after 3.5 minutes, the first stage completed its work and successfully separated. Then, during the second stage, the engine was supposed to run for about 5 minutes, but an as yet unknown problem arose, due to which the mission failed.

Virgin-Orbit_Image_02.png (450 KB)

The Boeing 747 returned safely to Cornwall, The Guardian reported. The incident is being investigated.

Matt Archer, director of commercial space flight at the British space agency, said he was very disappointed that the mission was not a success but pleased that the first satellite launch from Europe took place on British soil. He also said that as a result of the failure of the second stage, the rocket reached space, but did not reach the required altitude and orbit.

Archer also confirmed that the rocket and satellites were lost. According to him, the missile's flight path indicates that it fell into the water and does not pose a danger to people.

orbit virgin launcher one .JPG (64 KB)

Shortly after the launch, Virgin Orbit announced on its Twitter page that the rocket had successfully entered orbit, but the post was later deleted and information about the incident was published instead.

This is Virgin Orbit's sixth attempt to put its satellites into orbit and its second failure.


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