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The UK’s first-ever rocket launch ends in failure

Cosmic Girl, a repurposed Boeing 747 aircraft carrying the LauncherOne rocket under its left wing at Cornwall Airport Newquay on January 9, 2023
The LauncherOne rocket (visible under the left wing) was carried by the modified 747 Cosmic Girl to its launch destination over the Atlantic Ocean. | Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

What should have been a historic moment for the UK ended in failure last night after an undisclosed “anomaly” prevented the country’s satellite mission from reaching orbit. The Virgin Orbit “Start Me Up” mission was the first-ever rocket launched from British soil.

The first stage of the mission proved successful — Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl (a converted Boeing 747 acting as a carrier aircraft) took off from Spaceport Cornwell on January 9th as planned and released the LauncherOne rocket over the Atlantic Ocean at 11:11 PM GMT (6:11 PM ET). According to the live Virgin Orbit mission updates on Twitter, the LauncherOne rocket experienced a successful stage separation and second-stage engine ignition.

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