Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc. attempted to make history Monday with the first orbital space launch from British soil, but its rocket suffered an “anomaly” and failed to reach orbit.
A modified Boeing Co. BA, -2.08% 747 aircraft dubbed Cosmic Girl took off from Spaceport Cornwall in southwestern England carrying Virgin Orbit’s VORB, -8.53% air-launched LauncherOne rocket under its left wing.
More than an hour after takeoff, LauncherOne was dropped from Cosmic Girl when the plane was high above the Atlantic Ocean off the southwestern coast of Ireland. The rocket then fired its stage-one engine, starting what was expected to be a journey into low Earth orbit to deploy its payload of nine satellites.
LauncherOne reached space about an hour and 16 minutes into the mission, according to a tweet from Virgin Orbit. However, almost 30 minutes later, Virgin Orbit tweeted that the mission had run into difficulty. “We appear to have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit,” the company said, in a tweet. “We are evaluating the information.”
The company then said it was deleting its earlier tweet about successfully reaching orbit.
Virgin Orbit’s stock plunged 24% in extended trading on Monday.
The Start Me Up mission, named after the hit Rolling Stones song, marked the first international mission for Virgin Orbit and the first commercial launch from Western Europe.