Virgin Orbit fails to launch a rocket attached to a Boeing 747

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit fails on its first attempt to launch a rocket attached to the wing of a Boeing 747 due to an ‘anomaly’

  • Virgin Orbit confirmed Monday that the debut flight over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California was unsuccessful
  • The inaugural launch had appeared to be going well until moments after the rocket was dropped from beneath the jumbo jet dubbed Cosmic Girl
  • Then an unidentified ‘anomaly’ problem forced the mission to be cut short
  • It was hoped the rocket could one day be used to launch satellites into space
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is planning to launch astronauts into space Wednesday under his SpaceX business, tweeted his commiserations 
  • This came just days after Branson dumped $41 million of shares in sister company Virgin Galactic to help prop up flailing airline Virgin Atlantic  

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has failed on its first attempt to launch a rocket attached to the wing of a Boeing 747 due to an ‘anomaly’.

The company confirmed Monday that the rocket’s debut flight over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California was unsuccessful.  

The inaugural launch had appeared to be going well until moments after the rocket was dropped from beneath the left wing of the jumbo jet dubbed Cosmic Girl.

Then an unidentified problem forced Branson’s company to cut the mission short. 

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has failed on its first attempt to launch a rocket attached to the wing of a Boeing 747 due to an ‘anomaly’. Monday’s inaugural flight is pictured above 

‘We’ve 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,’ Virgin Orbit said on Twitter. 

There was no immediate word on what had specifically gone wrong apart from that an ‘anomaly’ had occurred soon after the engines ignited. 

‘LauncherOne maintained stability after release, and we ignited our first stage engine, NewtonThree. An anomaly then occurred early in first stage flight,’ Virgin Orbit tweeted. 

‘We’ll learn more as our engineers analyze the mountain of data we collected today. 

The company had previously said the chances of a successful debut flight is just 50:50. 

The highly modified jumbo jet took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles and flew out just beyond the Channel Islands, where the drop occurred.

The highly modified jumbo jet is pictured taking from Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles  

It then flew out just beyond the Channel Islands, where the drop occurred

It was hoped the rocket, which was carried into the sky on the wing of a Boeing 747 before being released, could one day be used to launch small satellites into space

The rocket was supposed to fall for a few seconds before the first of its two stages ignited and hurtled it down the coast toward the South Pole for insertion of its demonstration payload into a low Earth orbit.

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. 

It was hoped the rocket, which was carried into the sky on the wing of a Boeing 747, could one day be used to launch small satellites into space. 

A successful flight would have helped bring Branson’s space venture a step closer to commercial operations. 

The launch had already been delayed by a day as teams scrambled to empty the fuel canisters due to a faulty sensor on Sunday.

The company confirmed Monday that the debut flight over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California was unsuccessful

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is planning to launch the first astronauts into space from US soil in nine years on Wednesday under his SpaceX business, was one of the first to send commiserations over the failed attempt

Virgin Orbit said Sunday the fault had been fixed and the flight would go ahead the following day.

‘Our team has worked diligently to resolve the sensor issue and recycle the system,’ it tweeted.

‘We’re now back in the countdown, and are currently targeting another launch attempt tomorrow, with our window again open from 10 AM to 2 PM Pacific (5pm to 9pm UTC).’  

Monday’s failed attempt comes after the company has spent five years developing the 70-foot-long (21.3 meter) LauncherOne rocket. 

The flight map pictured above. The launch had already been delayed by a day as teams scrambled to empty the fuel canisters due to a faulty sensor on Sunday

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is launching the first astronauts into space from US soil in nine years on Wednesday under his own space venture SpaceX, was one of the first to send his commiserations over the failed attempt.

‘Sorry to hear that. Orbit is hard. Took us four attempts with Falcon 1,’ he tweeted Monday, referring to SpaceX’s first rocket which spectacularly failed in just 25 seconds of its first launch taking flight. 

The disappointing launch for Virgin Orbit comes just days after Branson offloaded around $41 million of shares in sister company Virgin Galactic, founded to carry passengers on suborbital flights into the lower reaches of space, in efforts to claw back money to pump into his struggling airline.  

Vieco 10, an investment firm owned by Virgin Group, dumped almost 2.6 million stocks between May 14 and May 15, making up an almost 2 percent stake in Virgin Galactic, according to a regulatory filing last week. 

The disappointing launch comes just days after Branson (pictured) offloaded around $41 million of shares in Virgin Galactic to pump money into his struggling airline

The sales came days after it emerged Branson had cleared a path to sell up to half of his holdings in Virgin Galactic to raise funds for Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The announcement on May 11 saw Virgin Galactic shares dive as much as 8.3 percent.

Virgin Atlantic has been ravaged by the pandemic, putting staff on mandatory unpaid leave in the UK and announcing more than 3,000 jobs will be axed.

Branson came under fire last month for asking the British government for a £500million bailout for the ailing business while the entrepreneur owns a private island in the Caribbean.

He has reportedly also put advisers on standby to potentially handle an administration.   

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