Video Shows Virgin Orbit’s Failed Rocket Crashing Back to Earth

Video Shows Virgin Orbit’s Failed Rocket Crashing Back to Earth

Virgin Orbit’s Space Girl, carrying the LauncherOne rocket, taking off from UK Spaceport Cornwall. Photo: Ben Birchall (AP)

After failing to reach orbit and sending seven payloads aboard, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket plummeted back to Earth to its fiery doom. The rocket’s hellish descent was captured on video, revealing the ill-fated return journey from space.

Ramón López, an observer at the Spanish Meteor Network, caught the rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere from Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa. He posted the footage on YouTube as well as Twitter.

Re-entry Launcher One 09-01-2023

The video shows LauncherOne’s second stage crashing back to Earth. “As it’s doing this, the friction with the atmosphere causes it to break up, heat up and burn, creating a slow-moving fireball in the sky,” Marco Langbroek, a lecturer in astrodynamics at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, told Gizmodo. email. “The rocket stage at that time was still carrying the payloads attached to it – they burned up along with the rocket stage.”

Langbroek identified the fiery object in the video as LauncherOne based on the time the video was captured, its geographical location, the direction of view as seen from Lanzarote and the direction of the object’s movement. “The very slow apparent speed on the sky, the long duration and the overall appearance of the fireball are also consistent with the re-entry of an artificial object into the upper atmosphere,” he added.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing jet, named Cosmic Girl, lifted off Monday at 5:02 p.m. ET from the Cornwall Spaceport in England carrying the LauncherOne booster rocket tucked under its left wing. The mission was to mark the first orbital launch from British soil, paving the way for the UK space industry.

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However, LauncherOne experienced an anomaly during the firing of the second stage engine and was unable to reach orbit. “The upper stage did not reach the speed necessary to bring itself and its payload into orbit around the Earth,” Langbroek said. “Although it reached space for a short time, it then fell back to Earth due to this insufficient velocity, in a suborbital ballistic trajectory.”

The mission, titled Start Me Up, carried satellites for seven commercial and government customers, including two satellites for the UK Ministry of Defence, the AMAN Earth observation satellite from Oman and Stork-6, the sixth satellite to was included. in the constellation Kubesat that observes the Earth in Poland.

All satellites suffered the same fate, burning up with the rocket during re-entry. It was a disappointing end to a long-awaited mission which was meant to usher in a new era for the European space industry. Virgin Orbit and the UK Space Agency have launched an investigation to determine the cause of the rocket anomaly.

“We will work tirelessly to understand the nature of the failure, take corrective action, and return to orbit once we have completed a thorough investigation and mission assurance process,” Dan Hart said in a statement. CEO of Virgin Orbit. After the mission failure, Virgin Orbit shares took a big hit, falling about 22% in premarket trading Tuesday morning, NBC reported. The company’s financial situation was already looking a little bleak, with Virgin Orbit reporting a net loss of $139.5 million through September 30, 2022, Ars Technica reported based on the company’s quarterly earnings.

“We will be working closely with Virgin Orbit as they investigate what caused the anomaly in the coming days and weeks,” Matt Archer, director of commercial spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Despite recent setbacks, the UK still appears determined to build its own ground-launch capability. “However, the project has been successful in establishing a horizontal launch capability at Spaceport Cornwall and we remain committed to becoming Europe’s leading commercial small satellite launch provider by 2030, with vertical launches planned from Scotland ,” Archer said. With LauncherOne based for now, the UK can ask other companies to get its orbital launches off the ground and into orbit.

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