Virgin Orbit’s First Orbital Test Flight Fails

Virgin Orbit’s First Orbital Test Flight Fails

Virgin Orbit’s air-launched LauncherOne rocket failed to reach orbit today. Dropped from its Cosmic Girl 747 carrier aircraft over the Pacific Ocean, something went wrong with the rocket’s first stage.  The company will investigate the problem and vows to move forward with another attempt “ASAP.”

Virgin Orbit, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is developing a small launch vehicle to deliver small satellites (300-500 kilograms) to Earth orbit.  Small satellites have become very popular in recent years across all three sectors of the space business — civil, commercial, and national security — and quite a few companies are chasing that market.

LauncherOne is an air-launched design, so can fly from a wide variety of sites around the world instead of a fixed launch pad.

The LauncherOne rocket being dropped from its carrier 747 aircraft, Cosmic Girl. Credit: Virgin Orbit

For the test today, Cosmic Girl took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port, CA and flew out over the Pacific Ocean.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

The company live-tweeted events as they unfolded.

Elon Musk of SpaceX and Peter Beck of RocketLab, both competitors for launching these types of satellites, tweeted words of encouragement.

On May 27 (Eastern Daylight Time), Virgin Orbit tweeted a video of the test showing the failure.

This article was updated with the last tweet.

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