This photo provided by Virgin Galactic, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity, attached to mothership, VMS Eve, takes off on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. Saturday morning’s test flight marks the third space flight overall for Virgin Galactic as the company looks to begin commercial flights next year. (Virgin Galactic via AP)

Virgin Galactic makes first flight from New Mexico site

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Virgin Galactic test flight Saturday ended prematurely when the spacecraft landed safely at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico after its rocket engine failed to ignite high above the Earth.

“The ignition sequence for the rocket motor did not complete. Vehicle and crew are in great shape,” Virgin Galactic said in a brief statement on Twitter. “We have several motors ready at Spaceport America. We will check the vehicle and be back to flight soon.”

The flight was the first from Virgin Galactic’s new headquarters at Spaceport America, a futuristic desert outpost.

Before first announcing the spacecraft’s safe return to land and then the problem with the rocket, Virgin Galactic’s in-flight communications were cryptic and sparse during a 15-minute period that began with an announcement that the spacecraft was “go for release” from the aircraft that carried it to the release altitude.

A previous Virgin Galactic press release said release would occur at about 50,000 feet.

After delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and some dicey weather earlier this week, the crew had been cleared for a morning launch amid clear conditions.

The spaceship was crewed by two pilots. There was payload belonging to NASA onboard but no passengers.

The next phase of final testing for the Virgin Galactic team will involve company mission specialists and engineers being loaded into the spaceship’s passenger cabin for powered flights. They will evaluate all the hardware, camera settings and which angles will provide the best views.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canadian Pacific Rail locomotives sit idle at the company’s Port Coquitlam yard east of Vancouver, B.C., on May 23, 2012. Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. says it will seek shareholder and regulatory approval for a five-for-one split of its common shares. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CP Rail beats earnings forecasts as Q4 profit up 21 per cent despite softer revenues

Coal volumes fell one per cent, energy down 27 per cent

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2019, file photo, a man leaves an Apple store in Beijing. Apple says it will roll out a new privacy control in spring 2021 to prevent iPhone apps from secretly shadowing people. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
Apple to crack down on tracking iPhone users in early spring

App Tracking Transparency will be part of software update

A lone passenger stands outside the International Arrivals area at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. As the federal government prepares to slap new restrictions on foreign arrivals, Health Canada data suggest a growing number of infections directly connected to international travel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Holiday season vacations coincide with rise in COVID-19 travel-related cases

486 COVID-19 cases diagnosed in recent travellers in December

Grant Hunter, associate minister of red tape reduction, is proud of the work his ministry has done over the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo contributed)
Alberta gets A for red tape reduction

The Alberta government is getting a thumbs up for its work on… Continue reading

A carved stone pillar is shown in this July 2020 handout photo. The Royal B.C. Museum says it has confirmed a carved stone pillar found at low tide on a beach in Victoria last summer is an Indigenous artifact. The museum says in a news release it will work with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations to determine the most suitable home for the pillar carved with the features of a face. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Royal BC Museum, Grant Keddie
Carved stone pillar found on B.C. beach identified as Indigenous artifact

Museum working with Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard is shown during a bail hearing in Winnipeg on Jan. 19, 2021, in this courtroom sketch. Lawyers for Nygard are back in court today arguing for his release as the Canadian fashion mogul faces charges of sex trafficking and racketeering in the United States. Nygard, who is 79, was arrested last month in Winnipeg under the Extradition Act and faces nine counts in the southern District of New York. His lawyers are expected to present a new bail plan after the judge presiding over the bail hearing criticized the previous one. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tadens Mpwene
Bail hearing continues for fashion king Peter Nygard on U.S. sex charges

Nygard has the means to flee, say federal lawyers

FILE - Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has his final meeting of the season with the media at the NHL hockey team's practice facility in Cranberry, Pa., in this Wednesday, May 9, 2018, file photo. Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, a Hall of Famer who helped lead to a pair of Stanley Cup titles, resigned abruptly on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, who oversaw Cup wins, resigns

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, who oversaw Cup wins, resigns

Outfielder George Springer is shown in a screengrab from a virtual news conference he took part in on Wednesday, Jan.27, 2021. Springer says he's excited to be a part of a young, talented team like the Toronto Blue Jays, a club he believes has plenty of potential. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Blue Jays introduce outfielder George Springer after signing him to six-year deal

Blue Jays introduce outfielder George Springer after signing him to six-year deal

Bucs fans set to cheer inside, outside Super Bowl stadium

Bucs fans set to cheer inside, outside Super Bowl stadium

Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli tries to fend off Saskatchewan Roughrider Zack Evans during first half CFL football game action in Hamilton on Thursday, June 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signs extension with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signs extension with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Ottawa Senators defenceman Thomas Chabot (72) tries to clear Vancouver Canucks centre Jay Beagle (83) from in front of Senators goaltender Marcus Hogberg (1) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, January 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Demko dynamite as Vancouver Canucks beat Ottawa Senators 5-1

Demko dynamite as Vancouver Canucks beat Ottawa Senators 5-1

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) knocks a rebound away from Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Lowry reaches 10,000-point plateau as a Raptor in 115-108 loss to Milwaukee

Lowry reaches 10,000-point plateau as a Raptor in 115-108 loss to Milwaukee

Most Read