What's new

UK's second attempt to launch satellite ends with failure again


Oct 2, 2015
Reaction score
Iran, Islamic Republic Of
Iran, Islamic Republic Of

Virgin Orbit LauncherOne Failure Caused By Anomaly In Second Stage​


Virgin Orbit's carrier aircraft takes off from Spaceport Cornwall on Jan. 9.

Credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

LONDON—The failure of Virgin Orbit’s first satellite launch from the UK occurred during the firing of the rocket’s second stage, the company has confirmed.
While the Jan. 9 mission appeared to start well, with the successful aerial release of the LauncherOne vehicle from the carrier aircraft and ignition and burn of the Newton 3 first stage, Virgin Orbit said its data suggested that an anomaly occurred during the Newton 4 second-stage engine burn as the rocket traveled at 11,000 mph. All nine satellites onboard were lost.
The flight was Virgin Orbit’s second failure, and the first to fail to deliver satellites to orbit. The company’s first launch failure occurred during LauncherOne’s first flight in 2020.
“While we are very proud of the many things that we successfully achieved as part of this mission, we are mindful that we failed to provide our customers with the launch service they deserve,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a press release issued hours after the incident.
He said the company would work “tirelessly” to find the root cause of the fault, adding that LauncherOne would “return to orbit as soon as we have completed a full investigation and mission assurance process.”
Virgin Orbit’s share price plummeted on news of the failure, losing a quarter of its value within minutes of the launch anomaly being declared.
Despite the failure to reach orbit, the company is still claiming other firsts, including the success of turning what it describes as an “empty slab of concrete” at Newquay Airport in Cornwall, England, into a fully-fledged space operations center. This proves out the company’s concept that virtually any airfield capable of handling a Boeing 747 could become a spaceport, Virgin Orbit said.
The company also noted that the launch had helped to further new partnerships between the U.S. and UK, connecting regulators and defense agencies.
“We have shown the UK is capable of launching into orbit, but the launch was not successful in reaching the required orbit,” said Matt Archer, the director of commercial spaceflight at the UK Space Agency.
Despite the setback, Archer said the UK remained committed to becoming the “leading provider of commercial small satellite launch in Europe by 2030.”
The mission had been hailed as not only the first satellite launch from the UK, but also the first from Western Europe. British Science Minister George Freeman prematurely claimed that the UK had won the race to be the first satellite launch nation in Europe; he subsequently described the failure on social media as “gutting.”
The launch failure means that the race to be the first company to orbit a satellite from Western Europe is wide open again. Several vertical launch providers are vying to claim the title with potential launches from Norway, Scotland and Sweden in 2023.
“Those of us in the space industry know not to celebrate too soon,” Alice Bunn, the president of UKSpace, the UK’s space trade association, told Aerospace DAILY.
“Despite the loss, there are still things to celebrate; the spaceport itself worked spectacularly, it was seamless, and it’s a huge step forward in getting all the regulation over the line.”
“It’s not beyond the pale for us to be back in Cornwall [for launch] fairly soon,” Bunn added.
Melissa Thorpe, the head of Spaceport Cornwall, said that despite the failure, the mission had inspired millions of people and that the organization would “look to inspire millions more.”

“Yes, space is hard, but we are only just getting started,” Thorpe added.

Among the payloads onboard was a joint UK/U.S. military experimental cube sat, CIRCE—short for Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment. Also onboard was Forgestar, a Welsh-developed reusable satellite to prove in-orbit manufacturing techniques. AMAN, the Gulf state of Oman’s first satellite, was also lost.

Making anomaly the excuse of this huge failure, as we say, is an excuse worse than the sin itself.

It just shows how backward the UK has become in the field of basic sciences. UK despite having heritage of Newton, cannot completely theorize gravimetry using orbital anomlies. What a shame @mike2000 is back
Top Bottom