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Mon, May 25, 2020

Virgin Orbit Update: First Launch Has Failed

Yup... This Week Is Definitely Looking To Be 'Space Week'

Aero-News RealTime Update--1554ET, 05.25.20: According to a brief tweet from Virgin Orbit, today's first launch effort has failed. "We've confirmed a clean release from the aircraft. However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight. Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base." No other details yet available. More info to follow...

Aero-News RealTime Update--1521ET, 05.25.20: After dealing with sensor issues on their first targeted day for launch, Sunday, the Virgin Orbit 747 'Cosmic Girl' is airborne, carrying 'LauncherOne' on what may be a historic air-launch of an orbital liquid-fueld rocket system. The aircraft is currently over the Pacific Ocean in preparation for final systems checkout, vehicle release, and launch of the test rocket. Unfortunately, the VO folks are not presenting a LiveStream, like their compatriots at SpaceX and ULA, but their twitter feed noted at 1534ET, that, "Cosmic Girl has entered the racetrack!" and will be flying this circutous flight path off the coast of California until all systems are cleared for launch... The launch attempt is imminent. At 1538ET, VO tweeted, "We've officially initiated the Terminal Count Autosequence, which means we're approximately less than 15 minutes away from releasing LauncherOne."

Aero-News RealTime Update--1112ET, 05.24.20: The Sunday launch attempt has been scrubbed til, at earliest, 1000-1400PT, Monday.

"We completed fueling of our LauncherOne rocket yesterday for our Launch Demo. Everything has been proceeding smoothly: team, aircraft, & rocket are in excellent shape. However, we have one sensor that is acting up. Out of an abundance of caution, we are offloading fuel to address... This means we are scrubbed for today. Currently, it appears we’ve got a straightforward path to address this minor sensor issue and recycle quickly. The crew are already hard at work putting that plan into action. We’ll provide an update on the new launch target later today."

Original Report: Not all the excitement in space news is related to Wednesday's scheduled launch of the SpaceX/NASA Demo-2 manned mission. Nope... there's excitement afoot on the West Coast, as well, this very weekend.

As previously reported, the Virgin Orbit project is planning to launch its first (unmanned) mission to space, in order to test its vehicle and programs, off the West Coast some time Sunday morning (PT) between 1000 and 1400, with an alternate launch date for Monday should weather or other forces interfere.

They noted (via their twitter account) that, "As this is a maiden launch, we're taking every precaution to maximize our chances for success — so the launch window may shift to accommodate for inclement weather or minor technical adjustments. We have a backup window for launch on the 25th."

This effort has been in development for quite some time and involves a specially modified 747 carrier aircraft (Named Cosmic Girl) -- which will take off from Mojave Air and Space Port, fly out over the Pacific ocean, and release a two-stage, orbital rocket, LauncherOne — which will then (hopefully) proceed to ignite its engine in mid-air for the first time.

Virgin Orbit notes that this Launch Demo marks the apex of a five-year-long development program and that first launches of this kind may be hampered (historically) by as much as a 50% failure rate. Still; they have high hopes (pun intended).

ANN will be monitoring the launch and updating you accordingly...




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