Monday, April 22, 2024

UK Space Launch: Dislodged Fuel Filter Blamed For Rocket Failure

The first ever satellite mission from the UK failed to launch last month because a rocket fuel filter had become dislodged, Virgin Orbit says.

A rocket engine overheated in turn, leading to the loss of the rocket and satellites it was carrying.

Virgin Orbit sent up a jumbo jet carrying the rocket from Cornwall on 9 January. The aircraft returned safely.

CEO Dan Hart said the company would “proceed cautiously towards the launch” of its next rocket.

“The data is indicating that, from the beginning of the second stage first burn, a fuel filter within the fuel feedline had been dislodged from its normal position,” Virgin Orbit tweeted.

“Additional data shows that the fuel pump that is downstream of the filter operated at a degraded efficiency level, resulting in the Newton 4 engine being starved for fuel. Performing in this anomalous manner resulted in the engine operating at a significantly higher than rated engine temperature.

“The early thrust termination ended the mission, and the second stage and its payloads fell back to Earth, landing in the approved safety corridor in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Virgin Orbit is headquartered in Long Beach, California, but was founded by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

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