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Tue, May 26, 2020

Virgin Orbit Addresses Failure of First Launch Attempt

The Valiant Attempt To Reach Orbit Also Recognized and Lauded by SpaceX' Elon Musk

It was not the best of days for the team at Virgin Orbit, but it was an educational one. After having to scrub a launch attempt on Sunday, May 24th, due to sensor issues, the VO team, finally had the chance to launch a rocket from the belly of their 747 carrier aircraft, 'Cosmic Girl' on Memorial Day.

However; while they finally had the chance to release a rocket in real life, things went bad shortly thereafter.

The LauncherOne liquid-fueled two-stage rocket angled skyward about 27°, as expected, at the moment of release. After a 4-second freefall, the first stage engine, NewtonThree, was supposed to ignite and allow the vehicle to accelerate to more than 8,000 miles per hour before staging and allowing the second stage to finish the trip to orbit. 

It was supposed to... but like many things in rocket testing, it didn't.

VO reported that, "In this first launch demo, we successfully completed all of our pre-launch procedures, 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 from the aircraft.

They added that, "LauncherOne maintained stability after release, and we ignited our first stage engine, NewtonThree. An anomaly then occurred early in first stage flight. We'll learn more as our engineers analyze the mountain of data we collected today... As we said before the flight, our goals today were to work through the process of conducting a launch, learn as much as we could, and achieve ignition. We hoped we could have done more, but we accomplished those key objectives today."

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.

Seemingly prepared for a possible setback, the Virgin Orbit team, already is at work on 'Plan B.'

"The team's already hard at work digging into the data, and we're eager to hop into our next big test ASAP. 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."

In reporting its lack of success, a familiar veteran of spaceflight tests and failures, Elon Musk of SpaceX, tweeted that, "Sorry to hear that. Orbit is hard. Took us four attempts with Falcon 1."

VO responded quickly... "We appreciate that, Elon. We're excited about the data we were able to get today."

More info, no doubt, to follow...

FMI: www.virginorbit.com

 


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