First rocket launch from UK soil takes off as ‘Cosmic Girl’ heads into space


Cosmic Girl launched last night and was carrying a rocket that would be shot into space (Picture: PA)

The UK’s first orbital space launch has taken place and made history as it jetted off from a Cornish runway.

After months of planning ‘Cosmic Girl’ was set into space by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company.

The modified Boeing 747 which was once a passenger plane – will carry a rocket into space.

It will be the first orbital launch from UK soil – or anywhere in western Europe – and comes after technical issues pushed it back from before Christmas.

The repurposed Boeing took off from Spaceport Cornwall, at Cornwall Airport Newquay just after 10pm and will mark the beginning of a new era of space exploration for the UK.

Once ‘Cosmic Girl’ has flown from Spaceport some 35,000ft (10,700 metres) over the Atlantic, it will release the LauncherOne rocket.

‘Space launch is a very serious business and we’ll be looking at integrating all the information about the system, about the weather, about the range,’ said Virgin Orbit boss Dan Hart.

There won’t be the fire and noise of a NASA launch however.

Instead, a modified Boeing 747 will carry the 21-metre LaucherOne rocket – which contains a number of small satellites – to 35,000ft before it fires into space and eventually reaches 8,000mph.

This will release seven satellites into orbit, before ‘Cosmic Girl’ returns to base by around midnight.

A select number of people watched live in person at the launch site, after tickets for the historic event were snapped up.

Cosmic Girl was ready to launch with no issues (Picture: Virgin Orbit)

Pilots were ready ahead of time (Picture: Virgin Orbit)

Star seekers were delighted at being able to watch the rocket launch (Picture: Daniel Dayment / SWNS)

A select number of people were able to watch the launch live (Picture: REUTERS)

Some fans said it was going to be an out of this world experience (Picture: Daniel Dayment / SWNS)

After a number of final checks the rocket set off into space (Picture: AP)

The Virgin Orbit Launcher One rocket in its hanger at Newquay Airport (Credit: Getty)

Technicians work on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, attached to the wing of Cosmic Girl (Credit: Reuters)

MORE : First ever rocket launch from UK soil is about to take off

Cornwall Airport Newquay was chosen as the base for Spaceport Cornwall due to its existing infrastructure.

The airport has one the longest runways of a regional airport in the UK due to its RAF base, and has direct access to a flight path over the Atlantic.

There is also a low civilian population within the surrounding area compared to many other airports in the UK.

They will be the first satellites launched into space from Europe.

In the past, satellites produced in the UK have needed to be sent to foreign spaceports to make their journey into space.

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It was originally hoped the launch could take place before Christmas but due to technical and regulatory issues it had to be pushed into 2023.

Among the satellites on board are a prototype orbiting factory for making high-value alloys and semiconductors, and one to join a constellation of satellites monitoring illegal fishing, smuggling, trafficking, piracy and terrorism.

Ian Annett, deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: ‘We are entering a new era for space in the UK with the first ever satellite launch from UK soil and from Europe.

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‘This is a significant landmark for the nation, the UK Space Agency, and for all those who have worked so hard over many years to make our ambitions to create a commercial space launch capability a reality.

‘I look forward to seeing more launches from other UK spaceports over the next year, putting us firmly on the map as Europe’s leading destination for commercial small satellite launch.’

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said: ‘This is a phenomenal moment with incredible international collaboration.

‘Virgin Orbit, the UK Space Agency and all of our partners are breaking new ground to transform access to space across the world from right here in Cornwall.

‘My team at Spaceport Cornwall have worked so hard to get this far.

‘We wish everyone the best of luck as the launch window opens, we are ready..’

This is a breaking news story, more to follow soon… Check back shortly for further updates.

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