Sensor glitch delays Virgin Orbit’s 1st launch of new LauncherOne rocket

Virgin Orbit postponed the launch debut of its new rocket for small satellite missions today (May 24) due to a sensor glitch on the booster.

The rocket, an air-launched vehicle called LauncherOne, was expected to make its first test flight over the Pacific Ocean during a four-hour window that opened at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT/1700 GMT). But after fueling the rocket late Saturday, an issue popped up.

“Everything has been proceeding smoothly: team, aircraft, & rocket are in excellent shape. However, we have one sensor that is acting up,” Virgin Orbit wrote in a Twitter update. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are offloading fuel to address.”

Virgin Orbit may try again on Monday (May 25), its backup date for LauncherOne’s debut. Virgin Orbit plans to launch LauncherOne from the air using a carrier plane called Cosmic Girl, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet modified for rocket missions. Under the plan, the carrier plane will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, fly over the Pacific Ocean and drop LauncherOne from an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,700 m).