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  • Satellite Evolution

Virgin Orbit confirms Cornwall failure root cause and path forward for return to flight

On Wednesday, April 12th, 2023, Virgin Orbit Holdings, Inc. successfully completed a month-long, full-scale test series to verify the root cause of the January 9th launch failure and test and verify the modification designed to address it.


A key element to the investigation focusing on the filter in the fuel tank outlet, the test campaign recreated flight conditions and demonstrated the dislodging and subsequent travel of the filter into the Newton-4 engine. This high-fidelity test article included all the key elements of the fuel feed system up to the engine inlet.


Ground test results matched flight data, confirming the dislodging of the filter as the initiation event of the January launch failure. A series of nine tests verified the performance of a redesigned filter.


The failure investigation centred on a standard fault tree methodology which guided the investigation and key analyses and tests. All potentially credible scenarios were investigated. The modified design, that has now been verified through test, has been incorporated into the Company’s next rocket which is planned for flight from Mojave Air and Space Port later this year.

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