The cause of failure of the maiden flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket has been revealed. The air-launched rocket was dropped from its Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 carrier aircraft at 1950 GMT on 25 May. After a four-second drop, ignition of the first stage NewtonThree engine took place, but after a burn of circa 5 seconds the firing was terminated. The specific fault has now been revealed to have been a rupture in a propellant line. An automatic engine shutdown took place after an anomaly was detected, which let the rocket drop safely into the Pacific Ocean.

First ignition turns to tears for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne. Courtesy: Virgin Orbit

No live spacecraft were carried. The LauncherOne two-stage launch vehicle along with its dummy instrumented payload dropped into the Pacific. The Boeing 747 carrier aircraft had taken off from the Mojave Air and Space Port at 1856 GMT. The rocket was on track when the failure occurred.