UK to host its first ever space launch as town is awarded operating licence
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The UK will host its first ever space launch with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) awarding an operating licence to the site it has approved for space missions.
The site of the UK's first space launch will be Spaceport Cornwall, Newquay, and the first mission is expected to take place within the next few weeks.
The spaceport is likely to host a launch from Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit, which will send satellites into space, the first time this has been done from Europe.
Given the title 'Start Me Up' in tribute to the Rolling Stones song, the mission will see a repurposed 747 named 'Cosmic Girl' take off carrying Virgin Orbit's Launcher One rocket.
Once the plane has reached 35,000ft, it will launch the rocket, which will then journey to space carrying satellites while the jumbo jet returns to the spaceport.
Before now, UK satellites have had to be sent to other countries so they can be launched into space.
But with a licence granted to Spaceport Cornwall that could now change.
Richard Moriarty, chief of the CAA, said it was 'an historic moment' for the first UK site to be given the green light to conduct space launches.
He said: "We're proud to be playing our part in facilitating the UK's space ambitions through assessing the safety, security and other requirements of these activities.
"This is another major milestone to enable this country to become a leading launch nation."
Transport secretary Mark Harper said a 'cosmic cornerstone' had been laid in getting the UK ready for the nation's first space launch.
He also said the spaceport and the developing space industry would play a role in 'creating thousands of jobs and apprenticeships'.
Spaceport Cornwall chief Melissa Thorpe added that getting the licence meant they were 'ready to open up the use of space for good'.
It is one of seven spaceports being developed across the UK currently, with another launch expected to take place next year from the SaxaVord Spaceport on Unst in Shetland.
That will be the UK's first vertical launch, with the planned 'Start Me Up' mission in Cornwall being a horizontal launch.
Four other spots in Scotland have been earmarked as sites to develop into spaceports, with the A'Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, Prestwick in South Ayrshire, Campbeltown in Argyll and Bute and North Uist in the Outer Hebrides all set for development.
The seventh spaceport site in the UK is due to be built in North Wales, with Llanbedr, Gwynedd selected as the spots for future space travel development.
Featured Image Credit: Spaceportcornwall/Shutterstock
Topics: UK News, Space, Richard Branson, News