On Monday afternoon, a Boeing 747 with a bright red tail emblazoned with “VIRGIN” departed from Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Tucked under its port-side wing was LauncherOne, a liquid-fueled rocket loaded with a dummy payload. The plane—known as Cosmic Girl—was headed for a patch of airspace over the Pacific just off the California coast near Catalina Island; LauncherOne was bound for low earth orbit. Once Cosmic Girl was in position, pilot Kelly Latimer pulled back on the throttle and took the 747 into a steep climb and released the rocket. After a few seconds of free fall, LauncherOne ignited its engines—and that’s when things went wrong.