NEWQUAY, England, – An English surfing resort was counting on Monday. The first launch of orbital satellite into space from Western Europe, when Virgin Orbit’s mission will transform. The Cornish town of Newquay into the country’s first spaceport.
A modified Boeing 747 will take off from Newquay on Monday evening with a rocket under its wing. Watched by crowds across the runway, before soaring over the Atlantic. Where an hour later it will release a rocket at about 35,000 feet.
The “horizontal” launch will catapult the southwest England resort. Population 20,000 and famous for reliable waves over the Atlantic. Into the limelight as a Western European destination for small satellites.
Virgin Orbit, partly owned by billionaire Richard Branson. The nine satellites would be placed in low Earth orbit (LEO) from. Its LauncherOne rocket on its first mission outside a US base.
The new spaceport gives Europe an option to launch small satellites. At a critical time after the Russian Soyuz vehicle was cut off from access after the war in Ukraine. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ariane 6 rocket, designed to carry large satellites, has also been delayed.
The Ukraine war has highlighted the importance for strategic military. Purposes of small satellites, such as those launched from Newquay. Which can go into low orbit with much less notice than larger satellites.
Dan Hart, chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said the satellites. Which are about the size of a breakfast cereal box – will fulfill tasks such as marine research and detecting illegal fishing. And piracy, as well as national security.
“We can all connect with one or more of the satellites flying on this mission,” he said at a press conference on Sunday.
Asked what the biggest difference was between launching in Cornwall. And California, he joked: “Pasti versus hamburger, that’s a significant change.”
He added that the launch was made possible by partnerships such. As the UK Space Agency, Spaceport Cornwall, the British Civil Aviation Authority and the country’s Air Force.
The flight, named Cosmic Girl, is expected to take off sometime between 2140 GMT and 2300 GMT. But is dependent on weather and “system health”. And Virgin Orbit said back-up dates are available for later. In January.
“Assuming everything looks good we are currently well on track for launch,” a Virgin Orbit spokeswoman said Sunday.
Space enthusiasts with tickets to the launch, called “Start Me Up.” After the Rolling Stones track, will watch from a viewing area across. The runway before attention shifts to a live stream on a large screen.
Virgin Orbit’s focus on LEO satellites is at the other end. The scale from large satellites in geostationary orbit launched by vertical rockets.
The LEO sector is growing , spurred by satellite broadband companies such. As Elon Musk’s Starlink, Amazon and London-headquartered OneWeb.
Small satellites are also used for climate change monitoring. Urban development and security purposes. And Britain hopes the new spaceport will boost its space economy.
The country has a large space industry employing 47,000 people. Producing more satellites than anywhere outside the United States. But before entering orbit they have to travel to spaceports in the United States. French Guiana or Kazakhstan.
It took time to get the mission off the ground.