Virgin Orbit Upper Stage Fails to Deliver to Orbit

Virgin Orbit’s 70-foot-long (21 meters) LauncherOne rocket upper stage failed in a launch of nine satellites.

Virgin Orbit developed very similar technology to the Pegasus under wing launched rocket from Northrop Grumman.

Carrying the rocket on the large plane was fine ane the first stage was fine and the second and final stage did its burn but at the end there was an anomaly and did not deliver satellites to the right orbit.

The failure resulted in the loss of nine satellites. Those payloads are an in-orbit manufacturing experiment by the U.K. company Space Forge; several U.K. defense cubesats, including two for studying the ionosphere, the upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere where space weather occurs; and an experimental global navigation satellite co-funded by the European Space Agency.

Virgin Galactic began working on the LauncherOne concept in 2007 and the technical specifications were first described in some detail in late 2009. The LauncherOne configuration was proposed to be an expendable, two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket air-launched from a White Knight Two carrier aircraft. This would make it a similar configuration to that used by Orbital Sciences’ Pegasus, or a smaller version of the StratoLaunch air-launched rocket system.

In October 2012, Virgin announced that LauncherOne would be designed so that it could place 200 kg (440 lb) in Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). Virgin planned at the time to market the 200 kg (440 lb) payload delivery to Sun-synchronous orbit for under US$10 million per mission, while the maximum payload for low Earth orbit (LEO) missions would be somewhat larger at 500 kg (1,100 lb).

History of Pegasus

On April 5, 1990, a new era began in commercial space flight when the Pegasus rocket was launched from beneath a NASA B-52 aircraft in a mission that originated from Dryden Flight Research Center in California. In the decades since its maiden flight, Pegasus has become the world’s standard for affordable and reliable small launch vehicles. It has conducted 45 missions, launching nearly 100 satellites.

The three-stage Pegasus rocket is used to deploy small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds (453.59 kg) into low-Earth orbit. Pegasus is carried aloft by our Stargazer L-1011 aircraft to approximately 40,000 feet over open ocean, where it is released and free-falls five seconds before igniting its first stage rocket motor. With its unique delta-shaped wing, Pegasus typically delivers satellites into orbit in a little over 10 minutes.

There were over 40 successful Pegasus launches.

Cosmic Girl is the name of the modified Boeing 747-400 that Virgin Orbit uses to launch its rockets. In 2022, Virgin Orbit announced plans to acquire additional 747s with the ability to transport the rocket and ground support equipment internally.

VOX Space is a subsidiary of Virgin Orbit that was created in 2020. The company supplies launch services for the US military, sometimes referred to as the “national security launch market.” The company uses the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne launch vehicle. The current president as of July 2022 is Mark Baird, who took over on 17 August 2021.

In April 2020, VOX Space was awarded a US$35 million contract for three launches of 44 cubesats for US Space Force. The first launch succeeded on 2 July 2022

5 thoughts on “Virgin Orbit Upper Stage Fails to Deliver to Orbit”

  1. Probably for the best, the US-UK agreement is incredibly one-sided. More time for Skyrora and Orbex to catch up, and take that nonsense back off the table.

    • To be completely fair, it has had four successful launches from Mojave. It was only the Cornish launch, and the first test launch that failed, and those were nothing to do with location.

  2. “Your success is our primary mission.”
    *fails upon undertaking primary mission

    Joke aside, I wish them the best

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