THE Scottish space industry has been "inspired" by the teams behind the Virgin Orbit launch despite its launch ending in failure, representatives have said.

The attempt to make British space history by launching a rocket into orbit from UK soil ended badly after suffering an “anomaly” during the flight.

After taking off from Cornwall on Monday night, the Virgin Orbit plane flew to 35,000ft over the Atlantic Ocean where it jettisoned the rocket containing nine small satellites towards space.

Organisers of the Start Me Up mission said the rocket – with a variety of civil and defence applications – failed to orbit.

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In a series of tweets, Virgin Orbit said: “We appear to have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit. We are evaluating the information.

“As we find out more, we’re removing our previous tweet about reaching orbit. We’ll share more info when we can.”

While engineers tried to establish what went wrong, the plane, dubbed Cosmic Girl, returned to Spaceport Cornwall safely.

The first orbital launch from Scottish soil is due to take place later this year, with SaxaVord Spaceport in Shetland and Space Hub Sutherland months away from lift-off.

The National: A space launch is due to take place from Shetland this yearA space launch is due to take place from Shetland this year (Image: Newsquest)

Daniel Smith, director of Space Scotland, reacted to the UK launch failure and explained what it could mean for the sector north of the Border. 

“While the final outcome was not what we wanted; this is nonetheless a historic moment for the UK space industry and its ambitions to become a global leader in the sector by adding spaceflight to an already long list of space capabilities offered by the UK," he said.

“Enabled by legislation and a licensing process authorised by the Civil Aviation Authority in partnership with the UK Space Agency; the launch at Spaceport Cornwall has set an example for both horizontal and vertical Scottish spaceports moving forward and has paved a path for future supply chain operations all around the country.

“It is the nature of the process that not all missions will be successful; but every mission provides invaluable data and analysis on how to improve technology and processes for subsequent attempts.

“Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit must be commended for their work to date in collaboration with their public and private sector partners, and it has certainly inspired our teams in Scotland by demonstrating that UK space launches are no longer just a possibility, but an active reality.”

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Meanwhile, Business Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News: “Space is difficult. Everyone’s used to seeing rockets which explode from Japan, what have you.

“The great thing about this technology is that no-one was harmed. The pilots came back in the aircraft.

“It didn’t work. I’ve no doubt that they’ll pick themselves up, dust themselves off and they’ll go again once they find out what exactly went wrong with it.”

He added: “It was a big moment nonetheless yesterday.”