Virgin Orbit, the rocket launch company founded by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has suffered a major blow after the failed launch of its first rocket on Sunday.
The company had attempted to launch a rocket from a modified Boeing 747 jet that had been flying from the Mojave air and space port. It was expected to reach a suborbital altitude of around 400 kilometres.
Unfortunately, however, the mission failed when the rocket was not released from the plane as planned.
The company said in a statement that “the rocket experienced an anomaly shortly after release, and Virgin Orbit has declared a mission failure. The exact cause of the anomaly is still being investigated.”
Despite the failure, the company insists that it has learnt a great deal and that the data analysed from the launch will be invaluable for future missions.
According to the company, the mission, which was funded in part by Boeing and the U.K.’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, was sponsored in part by the Space Angels Network and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
This clearly marks the end of Branson’s ambition to enter the lucrative space launch industry, and it is a major setback for his company. It is unclear what the future holds for the Virgin Group’s space ambitions, but undoubtedly the company will be keen to learn from its mistakes and prepare for a successful mission in the future.