I was at the Virgin Orbit launch of Richard Branson. It was like a festival with its silent disco and food trucks, but when the launch failed, the excitement faded and Branson watched from his private island.

Richard Branson alongside Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Daughter

Virgin founder Richard Branson watched Cosmic Girl (pictured above) from Necker Island.Virgin Orbit/Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

  • Virgin Orbit launched a rocket from Spaceport Cornwall on Monday, but the mission failed.

  • The launch was like a festival complete with a silent disco, food trucks and wristbands.

  • Virgin founder Richard Branson watched the launch from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Virgin Orbit launched a space mission from the UK on Monday, resulting in disappointment for many after the rocket suffered an “anomaly”.

A general view of Cosmic Girl, a Boeing 747-400 aircraft carrying a LauncherOne rocket under its left wing as final preparations are made at Cornwall Newquay Airport on January 9, 2023, in Newquay, UK.

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

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I went to Spaceport Cornwall to see the launch set to be the UK’s first orbital mission from British soil.

Insider reporter at rocket launch.

Kate Duffy / Insider

It was a cold, stormy night with occasional rain and hail, but more than two thousand people still came to watch Virgin Orbit take Cosmic Girl’s LauncherOne rocket into the sky.

Spectators at Spaceport Cornwall watch the launch.

Kate Duffy / Insider

There were several food trucks at the launch event serving regional specialties like pizza, mac-n-cheese, coffee, and Cornish pasties.

Food truck at Newquay Airport

Kate Duffy / Insider

Virgin Orbit also arranged a huge marquee for a quiet disco. Staff were handing out earplugs at the door and people inside danced to famous pop songs.

Quiet disco at Spaceport Cornwall.

Kate Duffy / Insider

Ian Annett, deputy director general of the UK space agency, said in a speech that tickets for the launch sold out faster than the Glastonbury festival, the country’s biggest music event.

Ian Annett of the UK space agency is giving a speech at the launch event.

Kate Duffy / Insider

Spectators wore wristbands distributed at the entrance. Joanna and Amy, two students from Falmouth University in Cornwall, said the launch event felt like a mini-festival.

Broadcast the team around the replica of the LauncherOne rocket.

Kate Duffy / Insider

Despite the electric atmosphere, one important person was missing: Richard Branson. His representative said Branson would not be able to join the team in person, but that he supports them and “sticks to the action”.

Richard Branson at Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit

At the time of launch, she was on Necker Island, a private tropical paradise she owned in the British Virgin Islands. Branson has a net worth of $3.6 billion.

Necker Island

Google Maps

Source: Forbes

The only appearance he made was a brief speech during Virgin Orbit’s livestream of the launch.

Richard Branson on Virgin Orbit's live stream.

Virgin Orbit

Source: Insider

Although Cosmic Girl took off and successfully launched the rocket over the Atlantic Ocean, Virgin Orbit announced that around 6:45 PM ET, LauncherOne experienced an “anomaly” and was unable to reach orbit to deploy the nine satellites on board.

A redesigned Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft named Cosmic Girl, carrying Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket, takes off from Cornwall Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay, Cornwall Airport.

Pictures of Ben Birchall/PA via Getty Images

Source: Insider

As soon as the technical malfunction was announced, the buzz ceased, and the crowds resounded with disappointments and lots of “no”s. Spectators gradually began to abandon the launch.

Spaceport Cornwall

Kate Duffy / Insider

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, told the press she was “devastated”, while Matt Archer, commercial space director for the UK Space Agency, said she was “disappointed”.

Cornwall Spaceport Head Melissa Thorpe poses in front of a modified Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl in Newquay, England, on November 08, 2022.

Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

Branson tweeted Virgin Orbit’s statement on the failed mission Tuesday and thanked the team for working on the mission.

Meanwhile, Virgin Orbit and the UK space agency are investigating what caused LauncherOne to fail.

UKSA's Ian Annett, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart and Spaceport President Melissa Thorpe sit on the panel at the press conference.

Kate Duffy / Insider

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