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Virgin Orbit confirms rocket failure cause

February 15, 2023

By Chris Forrester

Virgin Orbit says a dislodged fuel filter was responsible for its LauncherOne rocket failure on January 9th.

The launch took place from Newquay Spaceport in Cornwall with the rocket suspended from a Virgin Orbit converted Boeing 747, Cosmic Girl.

The problem filter meant that the rocket’s second stage overheated and being lost along with the small satellites it was carrying.

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 said in a Tweet. “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,” said Virgin Orbit.

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