Virgin Orbit’s ambitious bid to launch the first rocket from the United Kingdom into orbit faced failure on Tuesday (01.10.2023). The anomalous event occurred as the spacecraft was close to its designated target.
The modified Boeing 747 carrying the 21-meter rocket took off from Cornwall, south-west England, at 10:02 p.m. local time and GMT. The ambitious mission, organised by Virgin Orbit, saw the rocket dock with nine satellites as it successfully ignited its engine at an altitudinal range of 35,000 feet (about 10,700 meters) above the Atlantic Ocean south of Ireland at approximately 23:15 GMT.
Unfortunately, an anomaly was detected in the rocket’s trajectory shortly before its launch in orbit, causing failure of the launch. Vacating the mission, Virgin Orbit shared in its statement that, “It seems that we have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit. We will share more information when we have it.”
Spaceport Cornwall, a consortium which collaborates with Virgin Orbit and Britain’s space agency, announced that the aircraft returned to its facilities as scheduled. This was supposed to be the country’s first space launch from British territory. Previously, Britain had only been manufacturing satellites, and sending them to be launched from abroad.