Virgin Orbit pauses operations as rocket fix continues


Satellite launch firm Virgin Orbit has paused operations while it deals with financial issues.

According to media reports and a statement from the company, the company will update on future operations in coming weeks.

Several sources also reported that its employees, who were told about the operational pause on Wednesday, have been placed on furlough and that the company is looking for funding.

The ceasing of operations comes after the company failed to launch the first satellite from the UK in January.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne is an air-launch system, which instead of using a launch pad uses a large aircraft to carry a rocket to a high altitude and then launches it. The 70ft long, 57,000 lb (25,800kg) rocket designed to travel at speeds of up to 20 times the speed of sound (17,000mph) that can carry small satellites, such as communications and weather satellites of up to 660 lbs (300kg).

The LauncherOne system is intended to be transported to different sites. The system has carried out four successful launches so far. The launch from Cornwall, UK was also the company’s first international launch.

Investigations by the company’s engineers revealed that a fuel filter had become dislodged during launch, causing temperature increases and the engine to shut off early during the second stage.

A statement from Virgin Orbit reported on by SpaceNews said the investigation was nearly complete and the “next production rocket with the needed modification incorporated is in final stages of integration and test”.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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