Virgin Orbit eyeing second UK launch attempt this year

Space company Virgin Orbit has said it anticipates a return to Cornwall despite a recent attempt for the UK’s first orbital satellite launch that ended in failure. 

A statement said that the company was already in discussions with partners for a second launch in the UK this year alongside other planned launches such as one from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Investigations into the error that caused a failure in one of the later stages of the satellite launch found that though the LauncherOne rocket was successfully launched from a converted Boeing 747 jet, an anomaly in the upper stage of the rocket ended its first burn prematurely. This meant that the rocket and payload did not reach orbit and instead fell back to earth. 

Virgin Orbit CEO, Dan Hart, said: ‘We are all disappointed that we were not able to achieve full mission success and provide the launch service that our customers deserve. Upon identifying the anomaly, our team immediately moved into a pre-planned investigation mode. 

‘Given our four previous successful missions, which have proven our technology, our team’s deep understanding of the LauncherOne system from massive amounts of previously collected flight data, and the ample telemetry data that was collected characterizing the flight and the anomaly, I am confident that root cause and corrective actions will be determined in an efficient and timely manner.’ 

The investigation into the LauncherOne failure is being led by aerospace veteran Jim Sponnick and Virgin Orbit’s Chief Engineer and Vice President of Technology Development Chad Foerster. 

If successful, the launch would have been the first of its kind from UK soil and brought a variety of satellites to the earth’s orbit including the first from Wales that would have experimented with manufacturing unique fabrics in space. 

Other spaceport’s around the UK, including one in Scotland, are looking to hold their own launches in the next few years after Spaceport Cornwall, which hosted the Virgin Orbit attempt, became the UK’s first licenced spaceport.

Photo by Virgin Orbit


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