The Strategist

Virgin Orbit's first rocket launch test failed

05/26/2020 - 07:29

On Monday, American Virgin Orbit failed to launch its LauncherOne from an airplane into orbit, the company said.

"We confirmed a regular discharge from the aircraft. However, the test soon stopped at the beginning of the flight. Cosmic Girl plane and our flight crew are safe and returning to base," the report said.

There are no details of the incident. Meanwhile, Virgin Orbit reported problems three minutes after the separation of the rocket from the aircraft.

LauncherOne, which the company is developing, is designed to launch small satellites into orbit.

During the demonstration test, a small two-stage rocket 21 meters long was supposed to be dropped at a high altitude from a modified Boeing 747 aircraft (called Cosmic Girl) over the Pacific Ocean. Then the rocket should have turned on the engine. Some time after the launch, it was planned to put a payload into orbit.

The rocket plane took off from the Mojave airfield in California and launched a rocket about 150 km southwest of the city of Long Beach over the ocean.

The orbital rocket under development, which is mounted under the left wing of the aircraft, is expected to bring up to 500 kg of payload to the sun-synchronous orbit after an air launch.

This is the first demonstration test of LauncherOne rocket by Virgin Orbit, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson. The main office of the company is located in the city of Long Beach. The development of the air launch system began in 2015.

The company notes that such a launch of small satellites into space will be much cheaper than conventional rocket launches. LauncherOne rocket uses rocket kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel, which makes the cost quite low.