Virgin Orbit rocket prepares for blast-off as launch date confirmed

Virgin Orbit attach the LauncherOne rocket to the Cosmic Girl jet

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The UK’s first-ever space launch could take place as soon as 10:16pm on January 9, Virgin Orbit has confirmed today. The mission — dubbed “Start Me Up” — will carry satellites into orbit for seven different commercial and governmental customers for several nations, including a collaborative UK–US mission to study space weather phenomena. Instead of a conventional lift-off from the ground, Virgin Orbit is using an air launch, with LauncherOne rocket to be first ferried into the upper atmosphere under the wing of a modified Boeing 747-400 airliner, “Cosmic Girl”.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said: “After ensuring that every technical aspect is sound and every regulation and code has been satisfied, it is gratifying to see this historic endeavour on the verge of coming to fruition.

This launch represents the opening of a new era in the British space industry and new partnerships across industry, government, and allies.

Space is already responsible for tens of thousands of jobs across the UK, the global industry is growing quickly, and so is the potential.

“And this launch is demonstrating that with the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne system an airport can become a spaceport that sends humankind’s innovations on their journey.”


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