First-ever UK space mission ends in disappointment as rocket suffers anomaly

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    It was a disappointing day for the UK space community after the first satellites to be launched from British soil unfortunately failed to reach orbit.

    A converted Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl took off from Spaceport Cornwall, subject to a crowd of people watching the launch that was set to travel across the Atlantic.

    LauncherOne, a rocket that was carrying a payload of nine satellites and Virgin Orbit, was released by the plane, as Virgin Orbit announced that it had reached Earth orbit.

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    The company subsequently tweeted: “LauncherOne has … successfully reached Earth orbit! Our mission isn’t over yet, but our congratulations to the people of the UK! This is already the first-ever orbital mission from British soil – an enormous achievement.”

    However, controversy ensued as less than 30 minutes after the congratulatory tweet, a follow-up tweet read: “We appear to have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit. We are evaluating the information.”

    Cosmic Girl then safely returned to Cornwall as The Start Me Up mission became the first launch of satellites from European soil and was branded as a new era for the UK in space.

    Cosmic Girl was flown by RAF test pilot Sqn Ldr Matthew Stannard who took off just after 10pm while back in Cornwall, the excited public did a 'conga' dance around a replica of the rocket.

    The mission was a significant one for the UK and it was demonstrated by the 75,000 viewers who watched a livestream of the tremendous flight.

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    It was Richard Branson's Virgin company that launched the Virgin Orbit craft into space.

    Ian Annett, UK Space Agency deputy chief Ian Annett said that it was a “new year for space in the UK” and that he had “immense excitement” at what was happening.


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