Richard Branson’s British firm seeks to have its own network of communication satellites.
In the aerospace industry the bar for success is sky high. When a firm reaches its goal, it is said to have completed a feat. But if something goes wrong it is an unprecedented failure. This happened to billionaire richard bransonin a new attempt to place communications satellites in orbit.
The Boeing 747 aircraft nicknamed “Cosmic Girl” lifted off from Cornwall Space Airport in south-west England with the Launcher One rocket from 21 meters long and its payload of satellites.
At an altitude of 35,000 feet, the rocket undocked and ignited its engine, over the Atlantic Ocean south of Ireland. The curious thing is that the company informed, seven minutes later, that the upper stage and the payloads they had reached their position.
Everything seemed on track for the next phase, but after half an hour an inexplicable event occurred, which led to great disappointment. “We have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit,” he said on Twitter.
The failed mission, called start me upin honor of the Rolling Stones song, had transported satellites to seven clientsincluding some UK companies, a US military mission, along with Oman’s first orbiter.
As the Boeing 747 landed again at Spaceport Cornwall without complications, for many British analysts, this setback is not understood as a catastrophe but as part of an apprenticeship.
“Reports show that although the launch was not a success, a fantastic job was done. This is very important as we need to develop more space scientists and engineers to support this growing industry,” said Dr. Lucinda King, from the University of Portsmouth’s Institute for Cosmology and Gravitation.
CEO Dan Hart said Virgin Orbit will work to understand the nature of the failure and take corrective action and aims to return to orbit as soon as a full investigation and mission assurance process has been completed.
“All 9 satellites have been lost and are likely to break up in the atmosphere over the Atlantic. It will be a great disappointment for all those who have participated in its design and manufacture. Fortunately, they were insured, so there will be an indemnity that can be used to build other payloads and hopefully launch them shortly,” King explains.
The launch this Tuesday was the sixth try from Virgin Orbit to reach orbit and the second failure in flight. So far, the company has successfully launched into orbit four times from California’s Mojave Desert.
the three competitors
The deployment of small satellites is one of the many arms of the space race of this century. The challenge is to form constellations to provide high-speed internet globally. SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper lead.
In this growing category, Elon Musk’s global launches have tripled to about 2 thousand satellites per year since 2012 and are expected to double by 2030, according to the UK Space Agency.
While Amazon was authorized by the Federal Communications Commission to continue Project Kuiper, which aims to launch around 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit.
Virgin Orbit, the new player, pays the cost of inexperience. He had already put plans for a launch before Christmas on hold, but managed to get the mission done in the first of multiple new windows he set up.
“It is unclear when the next launch from Spaceport Cornwall will be, as although the CosmicGirl aircraft is reusable, they will need to procure another LauncherOne rocket in the US, as well as arrange to transport more satellites, although hopefully this will not be a problem, since there is always a lot of demand for launching places”, says King.
The trajectory of Virgin Orbit and its founder Richard Branson stands in stark contrast to the luminaries surrounding Elon Musk at SpaceX.
The American billionaire’s company has put thousands of telecommunications satellites into orbit, although only successes are counted in this balance. While the failed experiments no one remembers them.
While Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which is a few steps above Branson, as it is a major contractor for NASA. Virgin Orbit’s struggle is to seek private clients and also work for public organizations.
The most competitive end of this trident is in space tourism, where all have obtained favorable results in their trips to near-Earth orbit and offer the unique experience of zero gravity.
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Virgin Galactic failed in its first attempt to put a group of satellites into orbit