Jumbo jet set to launch Britain’s first rocket | UK News


The jumbo jet that will launch Britain’s first rocket into space has arrived at Newquay Airport in Cornwall.

Cosmic Girl, a former Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747, has carried more than 2.5 million passengers on nearly 8,300 flights.

But now the seats have been ripped out, the upper deck converted into a control center for launch engineers, and a 21-meter rocket slipped in under the left wing.

The jet is operated by Virgin Orbit and is scheduled to take off from Spaceport Cornwall, which is based at the airport, early next month.

The LauncherOne rocket is launched at an altitude of 35,000 feet over the Atlantic. It will then accelerate to 8,000 mph before launching seven satellites into orbit.

Melissa Thorpe, director of Spaceport Cornwall, said the plane’s arrival was preceded by eight years of hard work.

“A converted 747 using a converted airport to get into space is a perfect example of what we are working on at Spaceport Cornwall,” she said.

“By leveraging existing assets, we aim to set the bar for a responsible launch, with ‘Space for Good’ at the core.”

The Start Me Up mission is seen as a giant leap for Britain’s fast-growing space industry.

The jumbo’s seats were ripped out. Image: Virgin Orbit

Most of the satellites were built in the UK and will be loaded onto the rocket this week in a super-clean hangar at the spaceport.

These include a prototype of a high quality alloys and semiconductors factory built by Space Forge on a Welsh industrial estate.

Another called IOD-3 Amber, designed by Horizon Technologies, will be part of a constellation of satellites monitoring illegal fishing, smuggling, trade, piracy and terrorism.

Lucy Edge, chief operations officer at Satellite Applications Catapult, said the UK has a strong track record of building innovative satellites.

“This launch from British soil marks the beginning of the next major phase in Britain’s space history and opens up commercial access to space from our own backyards,” she said.

So-called horizontal rocket launches from aircraft require little ground infrastructure and are less dependent on the weather. Previous Virgin Orbit missions have been in the United States.

Two traditional rocket launch pads are under construction in the north of Scotland and on the Shetland Islands.

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