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Sir Richard Branson’s Cosmic Girl Rocket Fails Its “Virgin” Flight


Sir Richard Branson's Cosmic Girl Rocket Fails Its "Virgin" Flight

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On May 26th, Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl rocket failed on its debut flight.

The jumbo jet took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles and flew out just beyond the Channel Islands, where the drop occurred.

The booster was released from under the wing of one of Sir Richard Branson’s old jumbo jets which had been specially converted for the task.

The rocket was supposed to fall for a few seconds before the first of its two stages ignited and hurtled it down the coast toward the South Pole for insertion of its demonstration payload into a low Earth orbit.

The purpose of the flight was to gather data on every step of the launch process rather than to have a useful satellite in orbit; the demonstration payload was described as an inert mass and the intended orbit was very low to avoid contributing to the problem of space junk.

As such it only partially fulfilled its objectives, because it failed to reach orbit at all.

How the setback will affect the company was not immediately clear. It has six additional rockets under construction in its factory.

“The team’s already hard at work digging into the data, and we’re eager to hop into our next big test ASAP,” the company tweeted. “Thankfully, instead of waiting until after our 1st flight to tackle our 2nd rocket, we’ve already completed a ton of work to get us back in the air and keep moving forward.”

Virgin Orbit’s goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites.

It’s not clear at this stage precisely what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be only 50:50.

“Test flights are instrumented to yield data and we now have a treasure trove of that. We accomplished many of the goals we set for ourselves, though not as many as we would have liked,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.

“Nevertheless, we took a big step forward today. Our engineers are already poring through the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will learn, adjust, and begin preparing for our next test, which is coming up soon.”

The interesting part is that Virgin Orbit’s launch technology differs greatly from the conventional ground-based launching.

The first test-launch was 5 years in the making, starting back in 2015.

And since the chance for success was 50:50 the flight was not livestream.




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