"We've confirmed a clean release from the aircraft. However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight", the company said on Twitter. "Cosmic Girl aircraft has landed back in Mojave and our crew is all safe and sound".
We've confirmed a clean release from the aircraft. However, the mission terminated shortly into the flight. Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base.— Virgin Orbit (@Virgin_Orbit) May 25, 2020
The California-based satellite launch company said in a press release that LauncherOne rocket successfully lighted its booster engine on cue — the first time the company had attempted an in-air ignition.
“Our team performed their prelaunch and flight operations with incredible skill today. Test flights are instrumented to yield data and we now have a treasure trove of that. We accomplished many of the goals we set for ourselves, though not as many as we would have liked”, the company's CEO Dan Hart added. “Nevertheless, we took a big step forward today. Our engineers are already pouring through the data. Our next rocket is waiting. We will learn, adjust, and begin preparing for our next test, which is coming up soon”.
According to the Virgin Orbit, its next rocket is in the final stages of integration at the Long Beach manufacturing facility, with a half-dozen other rockets for subsequent missions not far behind.
The Cosmic Girl aircraft is a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft powered by four GE CF6 jet engines and used as the first stage launch platform for the air-launch stage of smallsat orbital launch vehicles.