Jan 11, 2023

Virgin Orbit U.K. Space Mission Fails as Rocket Suffers Anomaly After Launch Transcript

Virgin Orbit U.K. Space Mission Fails as Rocket Suffers "anomaly" After Launch Transcript
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Officials said the Virgin Orbit rocket launched as planned, but an “anomaly” happened just before it reached orbit. Read the transcript here.

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Errol Barnett (00:09):

All right. As a Brit, it pains me, it pains me to tell you the first ever satellite mission launched from the UK has failed.

Speaker 2 (00:17):

Well, the rocket ignited has planned, and it appeared to be ascending correctly. But then officials say an anomaly during the second stage of the launch prevented the rocket from actually reaching orbit. CBS News, foreign correspondent, Charlie D’Agata, joins us now from London. Charlie, always a pleasure when we get to chat. I’ll admit I was a little bit skeptical from the very beginning of the second…

Errol Barnett (00:41):

Why? Why?

Speaker 2 (00:43):

They took an airplane and they strapped a rocket onto it, and they expected it to go into space. But I’m wondering, beyond my basic explanation of things, do we know more about what went wrong?

Charlie D’Agata (00:55):

Yeah, well, sorry, Errol. England has a problem. As you said, this type of launch has been used in the past. In fact, it’s been used very successfully in the United States. Richard Branson was hoping that would work here. It’s a vertical launch, so they use a modified 747. It was successful. It reached a height of 35,000 feet. It then launched the first stage of this rocket.

The rocket reached 11,000 miles per hour. And then, as you said, an anomaly happened. Now, we haven’t been given details of exactly what that anomaly is. It’s appears to have been the second stage of that rocket. Whether it was a technical issue or a physical issue, it just didn’t reach the orbit that was necessary to launch the payload of nine satellites that were on board.

Yeah, it is a setback. It’s a major setback. They’ve been working on this for something like 10 years, for last night or overnight for that to happen. We understand that whatever is up there will fall harmlessly into the ocean and probably burn and breakup. It’s not going over any populated areas, but it is a major setback. A lot of money’s been involved, and it has worked in the past.

And the reason it’s a setback here in the UK is because the Brits are global leaders, or at least global competitors when it comes to satellites and the production of satellites. But it’s getting them up into space, which is the hard part, and they’re getting tired of having to ferret them out to places like the United States and other parts of the world. They want their own space launches here.

Errol Barnett (02:29):

And we should also note that all those tests are to an expense. This is not a cheap endeavor by any measure, but of course, people will be comparing Virgin Orbit’s launch to the competitors in the States. SpaceX, Blue Origin, which themselves have been able to test, fail, reattempt, test again, fail, test, succeed. What’s different about what the Brits are doing, perhaps in its testing procedure that may explain what’s going on here?

Charlie D’Agata (02:58):

Well, yes, you have Elon Musk, SpaceX, Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin. What’s different is it failed. But these space companies, these organizations have failed. They’ve had their ups and downs in a manner of speaking in the past too. I think it was the technology that they were trying to use here.

It really should have been a slam dunk. There have been successful launches, these vertical launches in the past. Largely out of California, but using the same sort of technology that Richard Branson and his launchpad used. It is back to the drawing board, but the people that are involved in this, the Space Minister said, in his words, “Space is hard.” He quoted President Kennedy.

Speaker 2 (03:46):

Space is hard. All right.

Charlie D’Agata (03:47):

“We do this not because they are easy.”

Speaker 2 (03:49):

“But because they are hard.”

Charlie D’Agata (03:50):

“But because they are difficult.” Right.

Speaker 2 (03:51):

Yes, absolutely.

Charlie D’Agata (03:53):

But that’s the important thing. There have been advances. This is back to the drawing board. But in every failure…

Speaker 2 (03:58):

Well, and that’s what I want to ask you, Charlie.

Charlie D’Agata (03:58):


Speaker 2 (03:59):

Because poor Errol over here, I think we’re hurting him as we continue to describe the failures. What was the success? Because this is still a major milestone for the UK Space Agency.

Charlie D’Agata (04:10):

Yeah. There are successes on several different levels. Just to get to the launchpad, as you’ve seen in the United States, same here in Britain. Getting all of that technology together, it was all in place. And it was kind of all working. Every part of this puzzle is critical. Obviously, everything has to work. But everything did work up until that last part.

Now, they’ve already said this will be a setback, but they are marching forward. They’re going to have vertical launches. They intend to do that in the next few months. They intend to increase investment in space centers here in the UK. There will be lessons learned. There’s always lessons learned in failure, but they feel that they’ve accomplished a lot.

They don’t want to be saddened, although clearly, they’re heartbroken. I mean, they were up all night watching this thing, and there were thousands of people that were gathered there to see this great success as they had hoped. But yes, back to the drawing board. It’s a setback. I think we’ll need to find out. I don’t know why, maybe they don’t know themselves, what this anomaly is. But there are corrections to be made, but they are marching forward, Errol.

Errol Barnett (05:22):

And it will be important to find out what that anomaly is. These things are difficult, but also expensive. Thanks for caring about my emotions, folks. Charlie D’Agata. It’s Charlie D’Agata, great to see you. Appreciate it.

Charlie D’Agata (05:35):

Thanks, guys.

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