Virgin Orbit announced on Tuesday that the UK’s first space launch had failed, preventing the rocket from putting nine satellites into orbit.
“It appears we have an anomaly preventing us from reaching orbit. We are evaluating the information.”Virgin Orbit announced on social network Twitter.
We see an anomaly preventing it from reaching orbit. We are evaluating the information.
— Virgin Orbit (@VirginOrbit) January 9, 2023
Later, the company announced that the modified Boeing 747 plane, dubbed the “Cosmic Girl,” had “returned safely” to Newquay Airport in Cornwall, southwest England.
Cosmic Girl, carrying a 21-metre rocket, lifted off at 10:02pm on Monday from Spaceport Cornwall, a consortium involving Virgin Orbit and the UK Space Agency.
The plane flew at an altitude of 10,600 meters above the Atlantic Ocean, then at 23:15, launched the rocket, nicknamed LauncherOne, which would put nine satellites into orbit.
The satellites had a variety of purposes, “from Earth observation to tracking illegal fishing, to building satellites and products to manufacture them in space”, Spaceport Cornwall director Melissa Thorpe explained to BBC television before the launch.
Matt Archer, the UK Space Agency’s commercial flight director, explained that the first phase of the launch was “successful” and went “as expected”, but the second was “somewhat anomalous”.
“We don’t know what it is, it will be probed again in the next few days, but it will not effectively reach the altitude required to launch satellites.”He added Archer to ITV News Channel.
The official added that although the mission was unsuccessful, it “proved” that it was possible for the United Kingdom to reach space, so “everything is ready again to do another launch in the future”.
Virgin Orbit attempted to reach a milestone by launching the first rocket from Europe. Currently, only eight countries have the ability to put devices into orbit from their own territory.
“Joining this exclusive club of missile nations is very important because it gives us our own access to space, this sovereign access to space that the UK has never had before.”The director of Spaceport Cornwall underlined.
Melissa Thorpe recalls that Europe lost access to Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft after the invasion of Ukraine.
Virgin Orbit’s launch caused excitement in the UK, with thousands flocking to Cornwall to witness the launch.
Hundreds of people watched the opening act, titled “Start Me Up,” a reference to the Rolling Stones’ hit.
In addition to the spaceport in Cornwall, the United Kingdom wants to open a space base in Sutherland, north of Scotland, and in the Shetland archipelago, located between the Faroe Islands and Norway.
The Scottish Government said in early January that the start-up of the two sites was expected “in the coming months”.
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