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Video shows Virgin Orbit rocket crash falling back to Earth

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A repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft called Cosmic Girl, carrying Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket, takes off from Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport, Newquay.

virgin orbit cosmic girlcarrying the LauncherOne rocket, taking off from Spaceport Cornwall, UK.
Photograph: Ben Birchall (SHOVEL)

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

Ramón López, an observer for the Spanish Meteor Network, captured the rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere from Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa. He released the footage in youtubeas well as in twitter.

Reentry Launcher One 2023-01-09

The video shows the second stage of LauncherOne falling back to Earth. “By doing so, friction with the atmosphere causes it to fragment, heat up and burn, creating a slow fireball in the sky,” Marco Langbroek, professor of astrodynamics at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, told Gizmodo in a interview. the e-mail. “The rocket stage at that time still carried the payloads attached to it—they burned along with the rocket stage.

Langbroek identified the fiery object in the video as LauncherOne based on the time the video was captured, its geographic location, the viewing direction as seen from Lanzarote, and the direction of movement of the object. “Very slow apparent speed in the sky, long duration, and the general appearance of the fireball is also consistent with the re-entry of an artificial object into the upper atmosphere,” he added.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing aircraft, called cosmic girltook off on Monday at 17:02 ET from Spaceport Cornwall, England carrying the LauncherOne rocket tucked under its left wing. The mission should mark the first orbital launch from British soilbreaking new ground for the space industry in the UK.

Nonetheless, LauncherOne experienced an anomaly during firing of its second-stage engine and failed to reach orbit. “The upper stage has not reached the required velocity to place itself and its payloads into an orbit around Earth,” Langbroek said. “Although it briefly reached space, then fell back to Eartth again due to this insufficient velocity, on a suborbital ballistic trajectory.”

The mission, titled “Start Me Up”, carried satellites for seven commercial and government customers, including two cubesats for the UK Ministry of Defence, Oman’s AMAN Earth Observation Satellite, and Stork-6, the sixth satellite that would later be included in the constellation of Earth observation cubes of Poland.

All satellites met the same fate, burning up along with the rocket during re-entry. It was a disappointing end to a highly anticipated mission, which was intended 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, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said in a statement. declaration. Following the mission failure, Virgin Orbit shares took a huge hit, falling about 22% in premarket trading on 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 results.

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

Despite the recent setback, the UK still seems determined to establish its launch capability on British soil. “Despite this, the project has succeeded in creating 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,” said Archer.. With LauncherOne grounded for now, the UK can look to other companies to get its orbital launches off the ground and into orbit.

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