Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747, Cosmic Girl, seen in Cornwall in November 2022. © Hugh Hastings

Tonight’s Virgin Orbit rocket launch marks a momentous occasion not only for the company, but for the entire United Kingdom. This is the first time a rocket has ever been launched from UK soil, and it marks a significant step forward for the country’s burgeoning space industry, propelling the UK as a key player in the global space market.

The Importance of the Start Me Up Mission

But this launch is about more than just making history – it has the potential to drive significant economic growth and opportunity for the UK. With the success of this launch, the UK space industry is poised for expansion, attracting new investment and partnerships and creating jobs in the process.

Virgin Orbit and its partners, including the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA), Cornwall Council, and the Royal Air Force, announced today that the first window for the historic Start Me Up mission will open on Monday, January 9th between 2140 and 2300 GMT.

The mission, which marks the United Kingdom’s first orbital launch, has additional back-up dates scheduled for the middle and end of January. Start Me Up is a collaborative effort between these organizations to make this historic event a success.

Picture of The LauncherOne Rocket and Cosmic Girl UK Space

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747, Cosmic Girl, seen in Cornwall in November 2022. © Hugh Hastings

The LauncherOne Rocket and Cosmic Girl

As a sister company of Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit has spent years developing its LauncherOne rocket, which has the ability to deliver small payloads to orbit. This launch, which will take place from Cornwall Airport Newquay, will see the rocket launched from a Boeing 747 aircraft known as Cosmic Girl.

While the launch has been delayed due to unfavourable weather in the past it appears that all systems are go for tonight’s historic event.

“We’ll do a three- minute burn on the first stage, followed by about six minutes of second-stage burn,” Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit CEO said during a pre-launch news conference on Sunday (Jan. 8). “We’ll coast around Antarctica, come up around near Australia. And then we’ll watch the final burn and the payloads deploy.”

UK history

The United Kingdom has a rich history in space exploration, dating back to the early 20th century. In 1919, British scientist Robert Goddard published a paper detailing his concept for a liquid-fueled rocket, which served as the foundation for modern rocketry.

In the 1950s and 60s, the UK played a significant role in the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. The UK’s Black Arrow rocket successfully placed the Prospero satellite into orbit in 1971, making it the only British satellite to be launched by a British rocket.

In the following decades, the UK has continued to make strides in the space industry. In 2019, the UK Space Agency announced plans to build a spaceport in Scotland, which will serve as a launch site for small satellites and provide the country with its own access to space. The agency has also worked to develop partnerships with companies such as Virgin Orbit and SpaceX to further advance the UK’s capabilities in space travel.

In addition to its involvement in satellite launches, the UK has also made contributions to human spaceflight. British astronaut Tim Peake spent six months on the International Space Station in 2015, conducting experiments and performing spacewalks.

A Bright Future for the UK Space Industry

It’s not just Virgin Orbit that stands to benefit from this launch – the entire UK space industry has the potential to experience significant growth as a result. With the success of this launch, the UK could become a major player in the global space industry, attracting new investment and partnerships.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness history in the making. Make sure to tune in to the live stream on the Virgin Orbit website to see this historic launch unfold. The future of the UK space industry is bright, and this launch is just the beginning. So, don’t miss out on this chance to be a part of something truly special.

You can watch a replay of the launch of Cosmic Girl, over on the Travel Radar Facebook Page:

https://fb.watch/hYjNXJrIow/

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