Virgin Orbit launch fails but satellites are still on the up
The first satellite launch to set off from British soil was unsuccessful this week as Virgin Orbit’s rocket failed to reach orbit.
Many spectators took to the rocket runway in the English county of Cornwall to witness the UK’s first satellite launch. However, after a successful take-off which took the Virgin Orbit rocket into space and allowed for the first stage separation, it suffered an ‘anomaly’ during the firing of the rocket’s second-stage engine that cut the mission short.
The rocket and the nine satellites attached reportedly burned up into the atmosphere after the failure.
Matt Archer, from the UK Space Agency, said that the satellites will break up and what is left should crash into the ocean.
“The rocket will probably break up, not all of it will burn up, but certainly that’s what they will be tracking at the moment and making sure that it is coming down safely,” he said.
Archer also said that the satellite load was insured and that Virgin Orbit should recover its losses.
Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit’s CEO, said: ”We will work tirelessly to understand the nature of the failure, make corrective actions, and return to orbit as soon as we have completed a full investigation and mission assurance process.”
Unsuccessful satellite launches are not uncommon in the early stages of satellite companies. Elon Musk’s SpaceX saw its first three rocket launches fail before its successful fourth launch.
Virgin Orbit hoped to bring more connectivity with its launch last night. Still, it has performed four successful launches in California over the past two years.
“Yes, space is hard, but we are only just getting started,” said Melissa Thorpe, head of SpacePort Cornwall, on Virgin Orbit’s failed mission.
One ineffective launch does not set the tone for the rest of the year for satellites, however. According to the experts that spoke to TechInformed, satellite launches are only going to be on the up in 2023, with much-anticipated excitement for satellite phone connectivity and 5G communications.
Satellite network operators, including Virgin Orbit, are all hoping to address a lack of connectivity in rural and remote areas around the world, “and it’s going to happen a lot sooner than you think”, Mikael Schachne, VP Telco Market at BICS told TechInformed.
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