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Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit Fails To Put Rocket Into Space

Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit Fails To Put Rocket Into Space

Virgin Orbit’s attempt to put a rocket into space over Southern California using a Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) 747 jumbo jet failed on Monday. 

What Happened

The Virgin Orbit demonstration flight did not go according to a plan.

The 747 plane dubbed “Cosmic Girl” soared to 35,000 feet and released a rocket from under its left wing, but seconds after the launch, the rocket’s engine malfunctioned and the test failed, reported the Wall Street Journal. 

The space company tweeted after the launch, “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.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk expressed his regrets on Twitter at the launch’s failure saying, “Sorry to hear that. Orbit is hard. Took us four attempts with Falcon 1.”

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Orbit, was not present at the launch. 

Why It Matters

Kendall Russell, a Virgin Orbit spokesman. told the WSJ the rocket’s autonomous safety system designed to terminate an errant off course booster did not activate during the flight because it was still in the correct flight corridor.

“Engineers are diving into the data now to determine the source” of the failure, he added. 

Virgin Orbit values a launch at $12 million, while SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket costs 5 times more. The company is targeting civil, military, and commercial satellite customers with smaller budgets.

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said it already has contracts worth several hundred million dollars with customers.

SpaceX and NASA plan to launch astronauts into space this week, an event that President Donald Trump expressed the desire to witness firsthand.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Virgin Orbit. 


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