Virgin Orbit, a firm that focuses primarily on dedicated launches of small satellites, attempted the first full, end-to-end flight of its orbital payload launch system on Monday, May 25. Under the demonstration, a modified ‘Cosmic Girl’ Boeing 747 air-launched the LauncherOne rocket. But due to an anomaly, the mission had to be aborted.
The launch took place around 12:00 PM PT (03:00 PM ET) from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California after the successful completion of the planned procedures. These included the captive carry flight out to the drop site, clean telemetry lock from multiple dishes, terminal count, a smooth pass through the racetrack, and an eventual clean release.
Subsequently, the LauncherOne lighted its booster engines on cue, signifying the first time that Virgin Orbit attempted an in-air ignition following a clean release from Cosmic Girl at 12:50 PM PT (3:50 PM ET). However, Virgin Orbit noted just a few minutes later that the mission had been terminated due to an anomaly that “occurred early in first stage flight.”
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 (@Virgin_Orbit) May 25, 2020
Despite the termination of the mission, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart lauded the team for performing prelaunch and flight operations with “incredible skill” and said:
“Nevertheless, we took a big step forward today. Our engineers are already pouring through the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will learn, adjust, and begin preparing for our next test, which is coming up soon.”
Thankfully, the carrier aircraft Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl and all crew have landed safely at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Vis-à-vis the situation, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk offered his condolences and reminisced how it took his company four attempts with Falcon 1. To this, Virgin Orbit tweeted stating that the firm is excited about the data it was able to get from the mission.