The first missile launch from Western Europe failed. On the night of Monday to Tuesday, satellites from the UK were supposed to be launched into orbit for the first time, but space company Virgin Orbit reported problems shortly after launch.
According to Virgin, something went wrong with the LauncherOne launcher, which was supposed to be launched over the Atlantic Ocean using a converted Boeing. Nothing is known about the cause yet. “We’re evaluating the information,” Virgin said.
The mission was well advanced before technical problems arose. The Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl took off at 11:17pm (Dutch time) from Cornwall, in southwest England, to applause from around 2,000 spectators. Over the Atlantic Ocean, Cosmic Girl launched a rocket, LauncherOne, at an altitude of just over 10 kilometers. It happened shortly after midnight. LauncherOne contains nine satellites of seven clients.
It is not clear what happened to the satellite shipment. The Cosmic Girl plane returned to the airport in Cornwall with the crew without any problems.
Virgin Orbit is the airline owned by businessman Richard Branson. British Science Minister George Freeman described the launch as a historic moment. “Assuming everything goes according to plan, we have won the European space race and we will be the first country to launch satellites from Europe,” he told Reuters news agency before takeoff. “We are sending a strong signal tonight that we intend to be a force in the space economy of tomorrow.”
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