Final preparations are being made at a British seaside resort before nine satellites are launched in the first rocket launch from UK soil. If all goes to plan, the Start With Me mission will launch at the Cornwall Space Station near Newquay in Cornwall.
Named after the iconic boy band the Rolling Stones in 1981, the mission involved a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 and a single-launch rocket for Virgin Orbit.
Dubbed “Cosmic Girl,” the 747 will take off horizontally from the new facility while carrying the missile. “This airport is great for landing and taking off 747s. It’s got a really cool rocket under its wing at the moment,” Melissa Thorpe, head of the space station in Cornwall, told Sky News.
The initial window for historic work will open at 10.16pm (GMT) on Monday, with additional backup dates running from mid to late January. About an hour after takeoff, the rocket will launch at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean south of Ireland.
The spacecraft will then return to the space station while the rocket fires its engine and carries several small satellites into orbit with various civil and defense applications.
The mission has many novelties: it is the first orbital launch from the United Kingdom, the first international launch for Virgin Orbit and the first commercial launch from Western Europe.
RAF Commander Matthew Stannard told Sky it was an “incredible show” and will be watching the missile move into space.
In the past, UK-made satellites were sent to foreign space stations to carry flights into space. British Science Minister George Freeman emphasized that “the UK is looking at our opportunities in terms of our geography”.
The launch was originally planned to take place before Christmas, but due to some technical and organizational issues, the mission was postponed to early 2023.
The company managed only two successful launches in 2022. The Long Beach, California-based project needs to significantly increase the number of releases by 2023 to meet its business and financial goals.
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