Virgin’s ‘Launcher One’ rocket test flight cut short

Space Science

Virgin Orbit ‘drop tests’ a rocket from a 747 aircraft 35,000 feet in the sky. (Photo: virginorbit.com)

MYSTERY WIRE — This week was shaping up to be one of the more important weeks in space flight in many years. But Monday, Virgin Orbit was unable to launch a demo of its two-stage orbital rocket from a 747 jet.

This week is also the week that NASA and SpaceX are teaming up to send 2 astronauts into space from Florida. This launch window is Wednesday afternoon, but now, weather may push the launch back to Saturday. But NASA and SpaceX will wait till tomorrow afternoon to make that call.

The Virgin launch would have seen the rocket — Launcher One — “ignite its engine mid-air for the first time,” according to a news release. However, the rocket experienced an issue. “We’ve confirmed a clean release from the aircraft,” Virgin Orbit tweeted. “However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight.”

The company later tweeted that the rocket experienced an anomaly in its first-stage flight. “As we said before the flight, our goals today were to work through the process of conducting a launch, learn as much as we could, and achieve ignition. We hoped we could have done more, but we accomplished those key objectives today,” the company said.

Virgin Orbit indicated in a news release that the “mission safely terminated.” A spokesperson confirmed the rocket fell into the ocean.

Virgin Orbit 'drop tests' a rocket from a 747 aircraft 35,000 feet in the sky
Virgin Orbit ‘drop tests’ a rocket from a 747 aircraft 35,000 feet in the sky

Virgin Orbit ‘drop tests’ a rocket from a 747 aircraft 35,000 feet in the sky

The company wants to fire satellites into orbit using rockets that launch mid-air from under the wing of a plane. The company previously said the demo “marks the apex of a five-year-long development program.”

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