1124 GMT September 22, 2020
The California-based company aims to place small satellites into space using LauncherOne, which is carried under the wing of a converted 747 jumbo-jet aircraft, the Guardian reported.
The test flight took off from Mohave Air and Space Port before noon on May 25 and flew to an altitude of around 35,000ft. Lifting the nose of the jumbo so the aircraft could begin a steep climb of about 30 degrees, the 21-meter-long rocket was then dropped from the wing.
The rocket, which was carrying a dummy payload, ignited its engine four seconds after the drop, but about five seconds later a malfunction caused the rocket to shut down. LauncherOne plummeted to Earth, breaking up en route. It ended its fall in the Pacific Ocean.
Maiden flights of rockets often result in failure. Before the launch attempt, Virgin Orbit said the chances of full success were probably 50-50.
In statements made after the flight, Virgin Orbit stressed the quality and quantity of data it had recorded. An investigation into the rocket engine’s premature shutdown is now taking place.