Virgin Orbit puts immediate halt to operations after failed Spaceport Cornwall launch

The decision comes two months after the UK's first ever space launch failed.

Satellite launch company Virgin Orbit will pause its operations across the whole company for at least a week.

The decision comes after a failed attempt to make the first satellite launch from UK soil in January.

The California-based company announced today (16 March) it would immediately put work on hold.

A Virgin Orbit spokesperson said: "Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective 16 March 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks.

"On the ops side, our investigation is nearly complete and our next production rocket with the needed modification incorporated is in the final stages of integration and test."

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A Cornwall Council spokesperson said Cornwall's priority is to continue growing the "space cluster" in Cornwall.

"It is clearly a difficult time for the Virgin Orbit team as they navigate the next stage of their company, and we will await further information from them as events unfold", councillor Louis Gardner said.

"Our focus at Spaceport Cornwall is to continue to grow the space cluster in Cornwall, alongside progressing relationships with spaceflight operators.

"We remain the only licensed Spaceport in the UK and our plan is to build on that position." 

Why did the UK's first space launch fail?

After taking off from Spaceport Cornwall, the Virgin Orbit plane flew to 35,000ft over the Atlantic Ocean, where it dropped the LauncherOne rocket from under its wing.

The rocket contained nine small satellites - but an "anomaly" meant it failed to reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit said the mission failure was caused by a premature shutdown.

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