The spacecraft is to launch nine satellites from Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 earlier this week.
First mission launched from a rocket UK It failed, on Tuesday, the 10th, when the spacecraft approached its destination and detected an “anomaly,” according to those in charge of the mission.
A modified Boeing 747’s Virgo orbit It took off from Cornwall, southwest England, carrying a 21-meter rocket at 10:02 p.m. local time on the 9th. The rocket disconnected from the aircraft and its engine fired as planned at an altitude of 35,000 feet (about 10,700 meters). Over the Atlantic Ocean south of Ireland at 11:15 p.m.
“At some point during the second stage firing of the rocket’s engine, the system experienced an anomaly, ending the mission prematurely,” said Virgin Orbit, which organized the mission. “We will work tirelessly to understand the nature of the failure, take corrective action, and return to orbit once we have completed a thorough investigation,” company president Dan Hart said.
The flight returned as scheduled to the Spaceport Cornwall facility, a consortium that includes Virgin Orbit and the British Space Agency.
Matt Archer, the British Space Agency’s director of commercial spaceflight, said that despite the “disappointing” result, the program had “developed horizontal launch capability”. “With vertical launches planned for Scotland by 2030, we are committed to becoming Europe’s leading provider of commercial small satellite launch services,” he said.
Ian Annett, deputy director-general of the British Space Agency, said experience had shown how difficult it was to get into orbit, but hinted that there would be more launches in the next 12 months. “We get up, we come back, we try again, that’s what defines us,” he told the BBC.
Hundreds of people attended the launch of the mission, called Start Me Up after the Rolling Stones’ song Virgin Orbit, British billionaire Richard Branson’s company that specializes in launching small space satellites.
Had the mission been successful, the UK would have become the ninth country in the world to launch satellites into orbit.
Launching a rocket from an airplane is easier than vertical takeoff because, in theory, a simple airstrip is sufficient rather than an expensive space launch pad.
Virgin Orbit has already launched other rockets into orbit with airplanes. The company, founded in 2017, managed to send a rocket into space using this method in January 2021 from a Boeing 747 that took off from the California desert in the United States.
The failed UK launch will put nine satellites into orbit for a variety of purposes, “from Earth observation to tracking illegal fishing, through to building satellites and manufacturing them in space,” says Melissa Thorpe, director of Spaceport Cornwall.
Until now, Britain’s satellites had to be launched from abroad, but after its role in European programs was called into question by Brexit, the country is looking to improve its space sector.
In addition to the space in Cornwall, the UK wants to open a space base in Sutherland in northern Scotland and on an island in the Shetland archipelago. /AFP
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