Virgin Orbit’s first launch demonstration flight has ended in a strange way. The spaceflight firm reported a “clean release” of LauncherOne from the Cosmic Girl host aircraft, but the rocket’s journey “terminated shortly into the flight.” What this means is that is didn’t reach the orbit.
The company had warned that the flight might not end well. This was the first time anyone had lit up a liquid-fuelled rocket at high altitude in a horizontal position, and it wasn’t clear if the rocket would last more than a brief moment.
It also looks like it will take a while before Virgin can achieve its goal of carrying rockets into orbit on a regular basis. That’s why the launch demo took place and it also goes to show what went wrong.
Ideally, it needs to refine the system so that it works properly in subsequent flights mission. The challenge is the level of effort needed. It’s not clear if Virgin will only require slight tweaks, or if this is just the first step in a very long process.
Cosmic Girl has released LauncherOne!
— Virgin Orbit (@Virgin_Orbit) May 25, 2020