Home / Science / News /  Final preparations underway for 1st UK satellite launch

Final preparations are being done for the first satellite launch from the United Kingdom later Monday, when a modified passenger plane is expected to release a Virgin Orbit rocket carrying nine small satellites into space, according to The Associated Press.

The mission, if successful, will mark the first orbital space launch from UK and the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson. 

This mission will see a repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft carrying a rocket take off from Cornwall in southwestern England from around 10:15 pm on Monday. Around an hour into the flight, the plane will release the rocket at 35,000 feet (around 10,000 meters) over the Atlantic Ocean to the south of Ireland, as per AP reports. 

The rocket will then take nine small satellites for mixed civil and defense use into orbit, while the plane returns to Cornwall. One Welsh company is looking to manufacture materials such as electronic components in space.

It will be the first commercial satellite launch from Western Europe, the UK Space Agency said. In the past, satellites produced in the UK had to be sent to spaceports in other countries to make their journey into space.

The company, which is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, has already completed four similar launches from the US, AP reported. 

Ian Annett, deputy chief executive at the UK Space Agency said, “This is the start of a new era for the UK in terms of launch capabilities. There was strong market demand for small satellite launches and that the UK has ambitions to be the hub of European launches."

Annett said that it was too early to say whether more missions are planned in coming months. 

The mission is a collaboration between the UK Space Agency, the Royal Air Force, Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Council. The launch was originally planned for late last year, but it was postponed because of technical and regulatory issues. 


(With AP inputs)

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