Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur is not happy lately. This is because his Virgin Orbit has failed in its first attempt to launch a new rocket into space.
Meanwhile, the rocket launch which took place on Monday was going on well until moments after. The rocket carried a test satellite. And it dropped from beneath the left wing of the jumbo jet dubbed Cosmic Girl.
According to Virgin Orbit,
“We have confirmed a clean release from the aircraft. However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight. Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base,”
“An anomaly then occurred early in first-stage flight. We’ll learn more as our engineers analyze the mountain of data we collected today,” the company said
This was a key test for the company’s plan to launch satellites into space.
Virgin Orbit’s vice president for special projects, Will Pomerantz commented during a preflight briefing on Saturday that about half of first rocket launches fail.
“History is not terribly kind, necessarily, to maiden flights,” he said. Chief Executive Officer Dan Hart said during the briefing there had been numerous tests, discussions and introspection to verify that the system was ready.
“In the end, the questions are always, has everything been thought about and are there any gaps or seams. And those are the questions you only learn when you commit to flight,” Hart said.
The rocket was supposed to fall for a few seconds. That was before the first of its two stages ignited and hurtled it down the coast towards the South Pole for insertion of its demonstration payload into a low Earth orbit.
Moreover, the purpose of the flight was to gather data on every step of the launch process rather than to have a useful satellite in orbit.
The demonstration payload was described as an inert mass. While the intended orbit was very low to avoid contributing to the problem of space junk.
However, the highly modified jumbo jet took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles, California. And flew out just beyond the Channel Islands, where the drop occurred.