Virgin Orbit mission success brings UK launch closer via Spaceport Cornwall

Virgin Orbit’s next satellite launch will take place from the UK, following the success of the “Straight Up” mission, which lifted off from Mojave in California over the weekend.

With that mission completed, Virgin Orbit is on track for launch from Spaceport Cornwall later this year. The UK Space Agency and Cornwall Council are supporting the launch, with Spaceport Cornwall expected to create 150 jobs in the area.

Commenting, St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double said:

“Having only recently met Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart in Parliament, I am delighted to see their continued success in this area as we move towards launch preparations from Spaceport Cornwall.

“We are now within reach of this colossal achievement, not just for Cornwall but for the whole of the UK, and I look forward to the final push towards lift-off in the months to come.”

Commenting, Science Minister George Freeman said:

“Congratulations to Virgin Orbit on another successful US mission, which demonstrates the ability of its innovative launch platform to put satellites into orbit day or night. With the countdown to the launch of the first satellite from UK soil, it’s amazing to see Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne in action before heading to Spaceport Cornwall.

We are in a strong position to capitalize on the growing global demand for small satellite launches and do so in a way that will ensure the sustainability of space and our planet for future generations.

Matthew Archer, director of commercial spaceflight at the UK space agency, who joined the Virgin Orbit team for the launch from Mojave Air and Spaceport, said:

“The success of the Straight Up mission is another exciting step on our path to launching the first satellite from UK soil. We work closely with Virgin Orbit and it was a privilege to be alongside our partners to witness another successful launch for the team.

The UK is home to some of the world’s leading satellite manufacturers, who are currently shipping their products overseas for launch. We support them by fostering a new national launch market, with spaceports and launch operators providing services across the UK and catalyzing investment from around the world.

The weekend’s Virgin Orbit mission launched seven satellites on behalf of the US Space Force that will experiment with space communications, space navigation and climate change.

A number of domestic and international satellites have also been confirmed for the UK’s first launch later this year, with customers including Space Forge, Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies, the MOD, DSTL and US National Reconnaissance Office, and the Sultanate of Oman.

Unlike many rockets, Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One takes off horizontally, carried by a modified Boeing 747, named Cosmic Girl.

This was Virgin Orbit’s fourth commercial flight. In January 2021, the company put its first satellites into space, after launching from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California.

Commenting, Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, said:

“The success of this latest launch in California is extremely gratifying for Spaceport Cornwall and the UK space sector. It was amazing to see both the Virgin Orbit team and our team working together to mirror US operations in real time – ensuring we are mission ready for the summer. It gave us a taste of what’s to come and our team couldn’t be more excited.

The UK Government’s National Space Strategy outlines how the UK will become the first country in Europe to launch satellites into orbit in 2022. Spaceport Cornwall is one of seven potential spaceport sites across the UK, this which will help to strengthen the UK’s role as a scientific superpower. and help ignite a wave of innovation across the country.

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