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UK set for historic rocket launch next week

Joe Harker

Published 
| Last updated 

UK set for historic rocket launch next week

The UK will very soon become the first European country to launch satellites into orbit as a historic space mission is set to take off next week.

In what is hoped to be the first of many UK-based rocket launches, the 'Start Me Up' mission (named after the song of the same name by the Rolling Stones) will launch satellites from a site in Newquay.

There had been hopes that the rocket launch could have been held before the new year, but some technical issues and regulations meant it had to be postponed to beyond Christmas.

If all goes to plan, and that depends heavily on the infamous British weather being uncharacteristically cooperative, then the rocket launch is scheduled to take place on Monday (9 January).

The intended plan is for a repurposed Boeing 747 from Virgin Atlantic which has been dubbed the 'Cosmic Girl' to take off from Spaceport Cornwall, the first of seven spaceports being developed across the UK.

Cosmic Girl will be carrying Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket, which will be released when the plane reaches an altitude of 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean.

The 747 named the 'Cosmic Girl' will take off from Spaceport Cornwall next week carrying a rocket which will be launched into space. Credit: Gordon Scammell / Alamy Stock Photo
The 747 named the 'Cosmic Girl' will take off from Spaceport Cornwall next week carrying a rocket which will be launched into space. Credit: Gordon Scammell / Alamy Stock Photo

The rocket will ignite its engines and hopefully blast off into space, carrying a number of satellites with various civil and defence uses into orbit.

If successful it'll be the first satellite launch into space by a European country, with the UK previously having had to send satellites to foreign spaceports and have them launched from there.

On Thursday (5 January) Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket successfully completed a rehearsal of the mission, so it's fingers crossed that by Monday the weather will permit the launch to go ahead.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said it was 'gratifying to see this historic endeavour on the verge of coming to fruition' and declared it represented 'the opening of a new era in the British space industry'.

Spaceport Cornwall boss Melissa Thorpe said next week's launch would be a 'phenomenal moment with incredible international collaboration', paying tribute to Virgin Orbit and the UK Space Agency among others for their part in making this historic launch possible.

The 747 will release Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket, which will have the mission of launching satellites up into space. Credit: Gene Blevins/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News
The 747 will release Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket, which will have the mission of launching satellites up into space. Credit: Gene Blevins/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

The upcoming launch was hailed as 'a new era for space in the UK' by Ian Annett, deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency.

He said: "This is a significant landmark for the nation, the UK Space Agency and for all those who have worked so hard over many years to make our ambitions to create a commercial space launch capability a reality.

"The development of new orbital launch capabilities is already generating growth, catalysing investment and creating jobs in Cornwall and other communities across the United Kingdom."

"This will lead to new careers, improved productivity and inspire the next generation of space professionals, and this is just the beginning.

"I look forward to seeing more launches from other UK spaceports over the next year, putting us firmly on the map as Europe’s leading destination for commercial small satellite launch."

Featured Image Credit: @virginorbit/Twitter

Topics: UK News, News, Space, Technology

Joe Harker
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