Virgin Orbit fails on first mission from the UK

10. 1. 2023 0 By Space Seeker

On Jan. 9, Virgin Orbit attempted to launch the first rocket from the UK to orbit. LauncherOne rocket uses a Boeing 747 instead of a traditional pad infrastructure. The rocket is dropped from underneath the wing, and shortly after it ignites the NewtonThree engine that powers the first stage. Spaceport Cornwall on the coast of England’s most south-westerly county, Cornwall is used for ground preparation and for takeoff and landing of Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

Monday’s launch would have marked the first orbital mission to begin from UK soil, demonstrating the air-launched LauncherOne vehicle’s ability to fly from almost anywhere in the world. The first stage flight appeared to be nominal as well as stage separation, fairing deployment, and the second stage ignition. However, during the firing of the second stage engine, an anomaly occurred ending the mission prematurely. Virgin Orbit only failed on its maiden launch attempt with 4 consecutive successes afterward.

The payload consisted of nine small satellites: Prometheus 2 – two 6U CubeSats which will provide a test platform for monitoring radio signals, IOD-AMBER (IOD 3) – able to locate and track vessels worldwide, ForgeStar-0 – first satellite developed in Wales, CIRCE (two payloads) – Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment, DOVER – pathfinder for resilient global navigation satellite systems, AMAN – Oman’s first orbital mission, STORK-6 – the next installment of Polish Small Satellite manufacturer and operator.