Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit says its rocket suffered an 'anomaly,' stopping it from taking 9 satellites to orbit

  • Virgin Orbit said it has experienced an “anomaly” with its rocket during a UK space mission.
  • Cosmic Girl took off smoothly and released LauncherOne, but the rocket didn’t reach orbit.
  • It was unclear what caused Virgin Orbit’s rocket to fail.

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Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit on Monday said its rocket experienced an “anomaly” while flying to orbit, preventing the UK from succeeding in its historical space mission to deliver a payload of nine satellites to orbit.

The “Start Me Up” satellite mission was scheduled for Monday from Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay in southern England.

Cosmic Girl, a repurposed Boeing 747-400, took off around 5 pm ET on Monday, carrying the LauncherOne rocket under its wing. The aircraft then successfully released the rocket around an hour after taking off.

About half an hour later, Virgin Orbit tweeted: “We appear to have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit. We are evaluating the information.”

Richard Branson’s company previously wrote on Twitter that its LauncherOne rocket had successfully reached orbit, but later tweeted that didn’t happen and it would remove the post.

It’s so far unclear what caused the mission to fail. Cosmic Girl returned to the spaceport just after 6 pm ET.

Matt Archer, commercial space director at the UK Space Agency, told reporters on Monday that he was “disappointed, but proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said she was “devastated” about the setback as the whole team had put their “heart and souls” into the mission, but she said she was glad all of the crew was safe.

He said over the next few days there would be an investigation into the mission failure.

The mission was set to be the UK’s first satellite launch and first orbital space mission from British ground, as well as Virgin Orbit’s first international mission.

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