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The Boeing 747 rocket launch failure led to Virgin Orbit's shutdown

By: April Carson

The space start-up Virgin Orbit, which was founded by UK entrepreneur Richard Branson, has ceased operations. The reason for the company's closure is linked to a catastrophic failure during a rocket launch that was carried out using a modified Boeing 747.

The shut down of Virgin Orbit

The firm experienced challenges after a mission in January that was supposed to be the UK's inaugural orbital launch. Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket was carrying nine satellites, including equipment for the US National Reconnaissance Office, but failed to achieve orbit. As a result, the company has been forced to close its doors.

The rocket was launched from a modified Boeing 747 airplane at an altitude of 35,000 feet but it failed to reach orbit due to a technical issue with one of the engines. This led to Virgin Orbit's mission being aborted and the plane carrying the rocket had to make an emergency landing. It is likely that this failure, compounded by other factors such as cash flow problems, led to Virgin Orbit's demise.

Although the company had experienced a series of successful launches, a recent setback caused their share price to drop. As a result, they were unable to obtain additional funding and began to experience cash-flow difficulties. It's worth noting that the company had not yet achieved profitability.

In March, the company had to lay off 85% of its staff, which meant around 675 people lost their jobs. A small team continued to work on finding solutions to keep the company running. Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful and the company has now declared bankruptcy, sold its assets and permanently closed down.

The Boeing 747 rocket launch failure was a devastating setback for Virgin Orbit. It not only hampered the chances of success for this venture, but it also resulted in the closure of a promising start-up with great potential. "Virgin Orbit was creating a great team, launching satellites, and doing incredible work," said Branson in a statement. "It's heartbreaking that we couldn't make it fly."

The company's closure is an indication of a swift decline after it was listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange towards the end of 2021 at a value of $3.7 billion.

What led to the failure of Virgin Orbit's UK launch?

The modified 747-400 jet Cosmic Girl, belonging to the company, took off from Spaceport Cornwall with the LauncherOne rocket attached under its wing. After the rocket was airborne, it detached and initiated its first stage, which allowed it to reach a speed of approximately 12,900 kilometers per hour. Following this, the second stage commenced and the rocket was meant to reach an altitude of over 300 kilometers, at which point it would enter a stable orbit.

Unfortunately, due to a technical issue with one of its engines, the rocket failed to complete the second stage and aborted its mission. This led to Virgin Orbit's closure since they had been unable to secure additional funding after experiencing failed launches. "The failure of our first orbital mission was difficult to accept," Richard Branson said in a statement.

The failure of Virgin Orbit's launch has left many in the space industry feeling cautious about taking on similar ambitious projects. It is an important reminder that even well-funded start-ups can experience difficulties, especially when launching technology into orbit for the first time.

What does this mean for UK space exploration?

While it is undoubtedly disappointing news for Richard Branson and his team, it does not necessarily spell disaster for UK space exploration. The future of British space exploration still looks bright, with numerous private companies and universities investing heavily in research and development, alongside government support.

The UK will need to continue to invest in the space industry if it is to remain competitive with other countries that are also pushing forward with their own ambitious projects. This means developing new technologies, creating stronger partnerships between the public and private sector, and launching more successful missions into orbit.

The failure of Virgin Orbit's launch has been an unfortunate setback for the UK's space endeavors but it should not be seen as a complete failure. With greater investment in research and funding available to start-ups, there is still hope for a bright future for British space exploration.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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