Virgin Orbit says it anticipates returning to Spaceport Cornwall for another launch as it explained in more detail why Monday night’s mission failed to reach orbit.

The company confirmed an internal investigation had begun into what happened in its ‘Start Me Up’ mission, named in tribute to the Rolling Stones.

It follows the historic first space launch from UK soil late on Monday, when modified Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl took off from Newquay, carrying with it the rocket LauncherOne and nine satellites.

The aim had been to release the rocket over the Atlantic, which would then launch the satellites into orbit.

However, while the rocket reached space and successfully completed the first phase burn, it was unable to reach orbit due to the second stage burn shutting down prematurely.

Virgin Orbit said: “At an altitude of approximately 180 km, the upper stage experienced an anomaly. This anomaly prematurely ended the first burn of the upper stage.

“This event ended the mission, with the rocket components and payload falling back to Earth within the approved safety corridor without ever achieving orbit.

“Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft and its crew returned safely to Spaceport Cornwall.”

However, the technology onboard allowed “an enormous quantity of data” to be collected during the mission, allowing Virgin Orbit’s engineers and review board members to start their analysis of what went wrong immediately.

A formal investigation into the source of the second stage failure has begun, led by co-investigator Jim Sponnick, a distinguished aerospace veteran.

Virgin Orbit said: “Prior to the Start Me Up mission, every customer satellite launched by Virgin Orbit had reached its desired orbit.

“Virgin Orbit has begun an internal investigation into root causes.”

It added that pending a satisfactory conclusion of the investigation, and steps being taken to correct what happened, it was planning its next launch from Mojave, a desert in southern California and western Arizona.

It also said: “Virgin Orbit also anticipates returning to Spaceport Cornwall for additional launches, and is in active discussions with key government and commercial stakeholders in the UK to start planning mission opportunities for as soon as later this year.”

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, went on to say: “We are all disappointed that we were not able to achieve full mission success and provide the launch service that our customers deserve.

“Upon identifying the anomaly, our team immediately moved into a pre-planned investigation mode.

“Given our four previous successful missions, which have proven our technology, our team’s deep understanding of the LauncherOne system from massive amounts of previously collected flight data, and the ample telemetry data that was collected characterizing the flight and the anomaly, I am confident that root cause and corrective actions will be determined in an efficient and timely manner.

“We are continuing to process and test our next vehicle per our plan and will implement any required modifications prior to our next launch.

“I also want to express my heartfelt appreciation to our team, who worked tirelessly under high pressure and difficult conditions, and most importantly to our customers, supporters, and partners in the UK, the US, and across the world.

“We thank you for the many expressions of confidence and support we have received over the past two days.”