Was it an abort or launch failure? SpaceShipTwo abandons launch one second after ignition

by | Dec 14, 2020 | Launches, Seradata News, Space tourism, Spaceport, Suborbital, Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket plane was air-dropped on a suborbital test flight from its mother ship WhiteKnightTwo Eve (which lifted off from Spaceport America at 1524 GMT) from an altitude of 13km at 1615 GMT on 12 December. An attempted ignition was made about two seconds after this. However, the flow of oxidiser was cut and the hybrid rocket shut down after just one second of burn. The spaceplane was able to glide back to the Spaceport America runway with the crew (Sturckow and Mackay) safely landing at 1628 GMT.

Update on 26 February 2021: The failure was reportedly caused by electromagnetic interference (EMI) from a flight computer that caused a reboot just as the vehicle ignited its hybrid rocket engine. This triggered a shutdown which cut the flow of oxidiser to the engine.

Comment by David Todd: This is another setback for Virgin Galactic’s space tourism project and especially its SpaceShipTwo craft, which has yet to breach the “space” Von Karman limit of 100 km altitude. We class this launch attempt as a “failure” rather than an abort as ignition occurred in an air dropped condition. We suspect that a full investigation will be needed before flights resume, delaying further an already much delayed operation.

SpaceShipTwo Unity ignites its engine for just one second on its test flight in December 2020. Courtesy: Twitter/Jack Bayer

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to www.seradata.com/spacetrak

Related Articles

Analysis: Branson realises space dream as he flies to the “edge of space”

On 11 July, Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson fulfilled a boyhood dream when he flew as ‘Astronaut 001” on Read more

Branson & Bezos race to space

Virgin Galactic announced at the beginning of July that its founder Richard Branson will be a passenger on the next Read more

Suborbital ventures on the threshold to space

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is to fly on the first crewed mission of the New Shepard, which is scheduled Read more

Virgin Galactic completes a SpaceShipTwo suborbital test flight

At 1526 GMT on 22 May Virgin Galactic achieved its first successful suborbital crewed mission from Spaceport America, New Mexico. Read more

Virgin Atlantic woes leads Sir Richard Branson to sell part of Virgin Group’s stake in Virgin Galactic

With the UK Government about to impose a 14-day quarantine on arriving passengers from most other countries, UK airlines and Read more

Virgin Galactic merger with SCH is heralded by jump in share price (Updated)

In a vote on 23 October, shareholders of SCH (Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp.) approved its merger with upcoming space Read more

Virgin Galactic to merge with already publicly traded Social Capital Hedosophia in US$1.3bn deal

Space tourism operator Virgin Galactic (VG) and the investment partnership, Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH) announced on 8 July that they Read more

SpaceShipTwo makes another successful test flight but still does not beat Karman line for true spaceflight

At 1607 GMT on 15 February a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Unity rocketplaine was air-dropped from its carrier aircraft Over the Read more

Cookies & Privacy

Click here to read about use of cookies on the website