Virgin Orbit fails on first rocket launch attempt


MOJAVE, Calif. (KAMR/KCIT) — The first rocket launch attempt for Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit did not go exactly as planned today, but there were some positives taken away from the launch.

Virgin Orbit, a satellite launch company based out of California conducted a launch demonstration on Monday, May 25 to demonstrate its innovative air-launched rocket over the Pacific Ocean just off the California coast.

The company said its rocket successfully completed all of its pre-launch measures, the captive carry flight out to the drop site, clean telemetry lock from multiple dishes, a smooth pass through the racetrack, terminal count, and a clean release.

The rocket even successfully lighted its booster engine after being released from its carrier aircraft. However, following that, the company said an anomaly occurred early in first stage flight and the mission was safely terminated.

Virgin Orbit said the carrier aircraft, Cosmic Girl, and all of its crew landed safely at Mojave Air and Space Port, ending the mission.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said, “Our team performed their prelaunch and flight operations with incredible skill today. Test flights are instrumented to yield data and we now have a treasure trove of that. We accomplished many of the goals we set for ourselves, though not as many as we would have liked. Nevertheless, we took a big step forward today. Our engineers are already pouring through the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will learn, adjust, and begin preparing for our next test, which is coming up soon.” 

The company said its next rocket is in the final stages of integration at its Long Beach manufacturing facility, with a half-dozen other rockets for subsequent missions not far behind. 

Virgin Orbit said its decision to start production on multiple rockets in advance of this test flight will help the team to move forward to the next attempt at a much faster pace, shortly after making any necessary changes to the launch system. 

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