UK’s first orbital space launch is due to take off

A modified Boeing 747 aircraft dubbed “Cosmic Girl” will take off from the Cornwall Space Center in southwest England.

Hugh Hastings / Stringer / Getty Images

LONDON – The first launch of an orbital rocket in Western Europe is scheduled to take place in the UK on Monday evening.

The modified Boeing 747 aircraft, dubbed “Cosmic Girl”, will take off from Cornwall Space Center in southwest England at 10:16 pm local time, conditions permitting, but additional launch dates are also scheduled later this month.

At about 35,000 feet virgin orbit The rocket will be deployed over the Atlantic, carrying nine small satellites into orbit in a so-called horizontal launch.

Among the technologies sent into space as part of the commercial launch are the first Earth observation satellite launched by Oman and the first satellite designed and built in Wales, as well as satellites from various UK and US government departments.

Launching missiles from British soil allows the country to “take a more responsible attitude to the ways [it’s] sending products into space,” Melissa Thorpe, head of the Cornwall Spaceport, told the BBC’s Today programme.

Crowds are expected to gather to watch the event, with the Cornwall launch site inviting the general public to witness what they called a “historic moment”. There will also be a “silent disco” tent at the scheduled launch event.

Virgin Orbit has cut its forecast for 2022 launches to three, after initially aiming for four to six earlier this year.

Announcing third-quarter 2022 results in November, Virgin Orbit also said it had raised $25 million to replenish its dwindling cash reserve. The money came from the Virgin Group, a larger conglomerate owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, which also includes Virgin Atlantic airline, gym group Virgin Active and a financial services company. virgin money.

Shares of Virgin Orbit hit a three-week high on Friday, trading at $2.11.

— Michael Schitz of CNBC contributed to this article.

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