Virgin Orbit just launched a rocket that failed to reach orbit. Look what happened.

Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl plane, spectators watching takeoff.

Virgin Orbit rocket launch from UK failed to reach orbit.Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

  • Virgin Orbit launched a rocket from the UK on Monday but failed to reach orbit.

  • An “anomaly” occurred after Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747, launched a rocket.

  • Here’s what happened when Insider attended the rocket launch at Spaceport Cornwall.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit on Monday attempted to launch a rocket from the UK in what would have been the country’s first orbital space mission from British soil, but the spacecraft failed.

Richard Branson of Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit uses a modified Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 called Cosmic Girl to launch the LauncherOne rocket, which is placed under the plane’s wing.

Boeing 747 from Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl first releases LauncherOne rocket test article in the air during a July 2019 test.Greg Robinson/Virgin Orbit

When a rocket is launched from Cosmic Girl at 35,000 feet, its engines are designed to accelerate it into orbit. But that was not the case on Monday at Spaceport Cornwall in southern England.

A general view of Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747 aircraft with a LauncherOne rocket under the left wing, during final preparations at Newquay Airport in Cornwall on January 9, 2023 in Newquay, UK.

A general view of Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747 aircraft with a LauncherOne rocket under the left wing, during final preparations at Newquay Airport in Cornwall on January 9, 2023 in Newquay, UK.Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

About 2,500 people watched the launch of the satellite. Staff, media and the public had to stand across the runway from the spaceport and spacecraft for safety reasons.

Space girl across the runway

Kate Duffy/Insider

In the middle of the closed part of the airport there was a replica of the 70-meter LauncherOne rocket, made by the British Space Agency.

LauncherOne rocket replica

Kate Duffy/Insider

People started gathering hours before launch and lined up chairs along the fence from which they could watch Space Girl take off into the sky.

People line up chairs by the fence at Spaceport Cornwall

Kate Duffy/Insider

Virgin Orbit organized food, snacks, restrooms and even a silent disco for all spectators.

Silent disco, food trucks

Kate Duffy/Insider

Virgin Orbit has released the planned flight trajectory for the mission, showing the nine satellites in LauncherOne that will be launched off Ireland’s south coast.

Virgin Orbit flight trajectory

Virgin Orbit

Cosmic Girl accelerated down the runway before smoothly taking off around 5:00 p.m. EST.

Virgin Atlantic's redesigned Boeing 747, dubbed Cosmic Girl, carrying a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket, takes off from Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport in Newquay.

Images by Ben Birchall/PA via Getty Images

Viewers watched as Space Girl soared into the night sky with LauncherOne placed under the plane’s wing. A livestream played during the event allowed people to follow the launch.

Cosmic Girl, a Boeing 747-400 aircraft with a LauncherOne rocket under its left wing, takes off from Newquay Airport in Cornwall on January 9, 2023 in Newquay, UK.

Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

When Cosmic Girl reached the right height, Virgin Orbit announced that it had successfully released LauncherOne from under its wings.

LauncherOne replica at Spaceport Cornwall.

Kate Duffy/Insider

Everything was going smoothly until around 6:45 p.m. ET Virgin Orbit announced that the rocket had suffered an “anomaly” and was unable to reach orbit to deliver the nine satellites on board.

Live stream from Virgin Orbit.

Virgin Orbit

Crowds of spectators began to leave the spaceport after realizing that the mission had failed.

Cornwall Spaceport

Kate Duffy/Insider

Cosmic Girl eventually landed back at the spaceport. The pilots were expected to greet the rest of the Virgin Orbit crew in a public space, but this has been cancelled.

Virgin Atlantic's redesigned Boeing 747, dubbed Cosmic Girl, carrying a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket, taxis down the runway before takeoff at Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport in Newquay.

Images by Ben Birchall/PA via Getty Images

“We have failed to provide our customers with the launch service they deserve,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a statement. “We will work tirelessly to understand the nature of the failure, take corrective action and return to orbit as soon as we complete a full investigation.”

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, during a press conference at Cornwall Airport on January 8, 2023 in Newquay, England.

Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

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