First Orbital Space Launch to make UK History

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The first-ever rocket launch from UK soil will take place tonight (Monday 9th January) from Spaceport Cornwall, at Cornwall Airport Newquay.

Using a two-stage-to-orbit air launch, Virgin Orbit’s modified 747 jumbo jet – Cosmic Girl – will take off with the LauncherOne rocket attached beneath its wing.

Marking the beginning of the UK’s future strategy for space, this launch is part of the Start Me Up mission – the first launch of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket outside of the USA.

The rocket will be released at 35,000ft over the Atlantic Ocean, where the first-stage engine will fire to start the ascent to orbit.

In total, nine small satellites will be placed into orbit at an altitude of 555km, in what is known as a horizontal launch. These satellites will have a variety of civil and defence applications, ranging from ocean monitoring to navigational technology.

“What we’ve seen over the last eight years is this building of excitement towards something very aspirational and different for Cornwall,” said Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall.

Whilst Josh Western, CEO of Space Forge, said: “For the first time, the UK has all the pieces of the jigsaw to be able to design and develop satellites, launch them from the UK and operate them from the UK.”

Today’s historic mission represents the first commercial launch from western Europe and the first international launch for Virgin Orbit!


Don’t miss this exciting moment for Cornwall and the UK! The Start Me Up mission will be live-streamed on Virgin Orbit’s YouTube channel from 1:15pm PT / 9:15 GMT: Virgin Orbit – YouTube

Photo Credit: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live