The very first orbital space launch from British soil is about to take off.
On Monday, a converted 747 jumbo jet will launch a rocket over the Atlantic to carry nine satellites into orbit above the Earth.
Newquay Airport in Cornwall serves as the operation’s starting point shortly before midnight GMT.
If successful, it will be a significant achievement for the UK’s space program. Signaling the emergence of a domestic launch sector.
Melissa Thorpe, who is in charge of Spaceport Cornwall, stated, “Over the past eight years, we’ve witnessed a growing enthusiasm for something ambitious and unique for Cornwall, a project that a lot of people didn’t think would ever come to fruition.”
“What I believe the people of Cornwall have witnessed is a tiny crew that lives and breathes this county delivering something truly remarkable.”
Sir Richard Branson founded the American corporation Virgin Orbit. Which will be utilized for this initial excursion into orbital launch from British soil.
The British entrepreneur had one of his vintage passenger aircraft modified to carry the LauncherOne rocket underneath its left wing.
When the 747 departs Newquay, it will fly west over the Atlantic Ocean to a designated launch zone close off the coast of Kerry and Cork, Ireland.
At the proper time and altitude of 11,000 meters, the Virgin jet will release the rocket. Which will then ignite its first-stage engine and begin the ascent to orbit.
Historic UK space launch from Cornwall
Everything on the lower deck has been removed to conserve weight, as a fully fueled rocket is a substantial load.
Two flight engineers will oversee the launch from consoles located on the upper level. The cockpit is substantially unchanged, except for a small red button that, when hit, will launch the rocket.
Mathew “Stanny” Stannard, a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force who is on secondment to Virgin Orbit, will be the primary pilot in the left seat.
“We will continuously monitor the rocket to ensure its health,” he stated.
“Thereafter, we begin what is known as a terminal count procedure. As we proceed through the sequence of pressurizing the tank and freezing the lines, the situation becomes considerably more intriguing.
“At the end of the terminal count, it is my responsibility to ensure that the aircraft is in the correct position in the sky. So that when the rocket says ‘I’m ready to go,’ the jet may take off.”
To date, Long Beach, California-based Virgin Orbit has conducted four consecutive successful rocket launches over the Pacific Ocean. The flights originated from the Mojave Air and Space Port, which is located north of Los Angeles.
The team has relocated to Cornwall to establish a new mission control for the UK operation.
According to the launch director, Deenah Sanchez, the procedure would be complicated.
“There are essentially three launch mechanisms available.”
“Because we have ground equipment, a full aircraft, and a rocket. The control room is staffed by experts in each field.”
Dan Hart, the chief executive officer of Virgin Orbit, remarked that other than the difference between Cornish pasties and American hamburgers, there wasn’t much difference between how his team would function for the UK journey. “The weather is a little different than in Mojave, but the team is working in the same manner,” he said.
If all goes according to plan, nine small satellites will be launched into orbit more than 500 kilometers above the Earth.
From ocean monitoring to navigation technology, they have a variety of civil and military applications.
One of the shoebox-sized satellites is owned by Space Forge of Cardiff. The company intends to manufacture innovative, high-value materials and components in space using satellites.
“For the first time, the United Kingdom has all the necessary components to design. And construct satellites, launch them from the United Kingdom. And operate them from the United Kingdom,” said Space Forge CEO Josh Western.
This rocket carries a great deal of promise, and its mission is just the beginning of the United Kingdom’s future space plan.
Alongside a rising satellite business, Scottish firms Skyrora and Orbex are at the forefront of developing more conventional vertical launch systems – rockets that rise vertically from the ground.
Possible implementation by the end of 2023 from Shetland and Sutherland in the far north of the country.