California-based Virgin Orbit (VO) aborted an air-launched rocket demonstration on Monday after releasing the rocket from a modified Boeing 747.
“After being released from the carrier aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket successfully lighted its booster engine- the first time the company had attempted an in-air ignition. An anomaly then occurred early in first stage flight, and the mission safely terminated,” a VO release said
Earlier, the company successfully completed all of its pre-launch procedures, the captive carry flight out to the drop site, clean telemetry lock from multiple dishes, a smooth pass through the racetrack, terminal count, and a clean release.
The carrier aircraft, Cosmic Girl and all of its crew landed safely at Mojave Air and Space Port, concluding the failed mission.
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said, “our next rocket is waiting. We will learn, adjust, and begin preparing for our next test, which is coming up soon.”
The company’s next rocket is in final stages of integration at its Long Beach manufacturing facility, with a half-dozen other rockets for subsequent missions not far behind. Virgin Orbit’s decision to begin production of multiple rockets well in advance of this test flight will enable the team to progress to the next attempt at a significantly faster pace, shortly after making any necessary modifications to the launch system.
Virgin Galactic, a spaceflight company established by Virgin Airlines chief Richard Branson, is planning to use a Boeing 747 as a platform for sending small satellites into space, as part of its LauncherOne system.
Under the plans, LauncherOne rockets will be mounted under the left wing of an aircraft known as Cosmic Girl, in the position that is usually used to carry a fifth engine on other jets, according to company. Cosmic Girl will take the rocket to a high altitude before hurling it into orbit.
The LauncherOne spacecraft’s capacity has been doubled to ferry payloads of up to 200 kilogram into the standard sun-synchronous orbit, for less than $10 million.