UK space launch: Dislodged fuel filter blamed for rocket failure

Undated handout photo issued by UK Space Agency of Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket at Spaceport Cornwall, at Cor...

According to Virgin Orbit, the first satellite mission from the UK to ever fail to launch last month was due to a rocket fuel filter becoming loose.

In turn, a rocket engine overheated and the rocket and satellites it was carrying were destroyed.

On January 9, Virgin Orbit launched the rocket from Cornwall aboard a jumbo jet. The plane made a successful return.

The company will "proceed cautiously towards the launch" of its next rocket, according to CEO Dan Hart.

According to the data, a fuel filter within the fuel feedline had been moved from its normal position starting with the second stage first burn, Virgin Orbit tweeted.

The Newton 4 engine was starved of fuel as a result of the fuel pump downstream of the filter operating at a degraded efficiency level, according to additional data. The engine was operating at a temperature that was much higher than its rated operating temperature as a result of this anomalous behavior.

"The mission was terminated by an early thrust termination, and the second stage and its payloads fell back to Earth, landing in the Atlantic Ocean, within the authorized safety corridor. ".

Virgin Orbit reported at the time that its LauncherOne rocket, which was launched from the Boeing 747 aircraft Cosmic Girl, had reached space but had not yet reached its intended orbit.

Graphic showing stages of rocket. 1. First-stage rocket fired successfully after dropping from Cosmic Girl 747 jet. 2. Problem with second-stage engine. 3. Satellites lost with rocket

The mission was promoted as a turning point for UK space, heralding the beginning of a domestic launch industry. The goal is to make the nation a major player on the international stage by producing satellites, developing rockets, and building new spaceports.

More than 2,000 spectators and VIPs gathered at Cornwall Newquay Airport to watch the launch, which drew a large crowd.

Intense disappointment, according to Mr. Hart, is quickly transformed into a drive to investigate the issue, comprehend all contributing factors, and return to flight with an improved system and a more knowledgeable crew. ".

He further stated that the probe into the rocket failure was still ongoing.

Despite having its main office in Long Beach, California, Sir Richard Branson, a British businessman, founded Virgin Orbit.

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