After losing orbit, the UK’s first-ever orbital launch fails.
The first orbital launch from British territory was attempted using Cosmic Girl, a Boeing 747 that Virgin Orbit transformed into an airborne launch platform.
Although the mission was launched successfully, “an abnormality” prevented the payload from achieving orbit, according to Virgin Orbit. As a result, the mission was a failure.
It’s halfway there
At 10:02 GMT on January 9, 2022, the plane lifted off from Spaceport Cornwall, also known as Cornwall Airport Newquay (NQY).
The airplane launched the LauncherOne rocket while flying off the coast of Ireland after ascending to a height of roughly 35,000 feet (10.6 kilometers).
According to schedule, the mission was completed, and the rocket started coasting around the planet in preparation for deploying the payload.
However, a message stating a problem was posted to the Virgin Orbit Twitter account at 11:46 PM GMT.
Although the business didn’t provide any additional explanation, it did tweet immediately after that it would provide more details as soon as possible.
The nature of the “anomaly” was not clarified in a press release that was released on January 10 in the morning.
The system experienced an abnormality, which caused the rocket’s second stage engine to fire prematurely when the rocket was moving at a speed of more than 11,000 mph, according to the press statement.
The mission still highlighted a number of first-time accomplishments, according to the firm, even though it ultimately failed.
According to the press release, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said, “We will work relentlessly to identify the origin of the failure, make corrective changes, and return to orbit as soon as we have completed a full investigation and mission assurance process.
An uncommon task
The “Start Me Up” mission carried eight miniature satellites, including two cubesats created by the UK Ministry of Defense, the first satellite ever created in Wales, and the first satellite ever created in Oman.
“Start Me Up,” which was announced in mid-2022, was intended to be Cosmic Girl’s maiden international mission and the first of several launches that Virgin Orbit wants to execute overseas.
An ex-Virgin Atlantic 747-400, the plane was transformed between 2007 and 2021 into an aerial launch pad. Since then, it has routinely carried out missions after carrying out its first successful commercial launch in July 2021.
The Cosmic Girl belongs to the class of aircraft designed to launch small rockets after lifting them into the stratosphere, essentially replacing the first stage of a conventional rocket, along with Scaled Composites Strat launch, the largest aircraft ever built, and Orbital Sciences’ Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, named Stargazer.
Compared to traditional rockets, aerodynamic rockets have a number of advantages, including the capacity to execute launches from unprepared places and with little advance notice.
The cost per kilogram of cargo is usually higher for them than for standard launches. As the cargo capacity of the current generation of aerial launch platforms is very low, their payloads also frequently have a limited weight.
Despite being modified from some of the biggest aircraft ever to fly, those launchers typically have a lifting capacity of just a few tens of tons, which—combined with the rocket fuel that needs to be transported—designates aerially launched rockets as modest orbital vehicles.