Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit Co. fails first rocket launch attempt

FILE PHOTO: Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart works on email as he sits near the runway next to “Cosmic Girl”, a modified Boeing 747 jetliner, prior to a drop test of its high-altitude launch system for satellites from Mojave, California, U.S. July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – Billionaire mogul Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company aborted its first attempt to launch a rocket into space from the belly of a 747 airplane on Monday, the company announced.

This was a key test for the company’s plan to launch satellites into space.

The 70-foot (21.34 m) rocket called LauncherOne was to blast into orbit at about 6.5 miles altitude from a modified airplane named Cosmic Girl, which took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The mission was “terminated” moments after the rocket’s release from the jetliner, just before 3 p.m. ET/1900 GMT over the Pacific Ocean, the company said in a statement on Twitter.

“An anomaly then occurred early in first stage flight. We’ll learn more as our engineers analyze the mountain of data we collected today,” the company said.

No other details were immediately released. There were no injuries reported in the flight.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Diane Craft

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