UK's first space mission scheduled for lift-off on Monday

The initial window for the mission, named Start Me Up in tribute to rock band The Rolling Stones, will open at 10.16pm

Head of Spaceport Cornwall, Melissa Thorpe, next to Cosmic Girl - a specially-adapted 747 - in Newquay. PA
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Britain’s first space launch is scheduled to take place on Monday.

Virgin Orbit is due to launch from Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay in south-west England.

The initial window for the mission, named Start Me Up in tribute to rock band The Rolling Stones, will open at 10.16pm.

That is when a repurposed Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl is set to take off horizontally carrying the Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket under one of its wings.

If all goes well, it will release the rocket at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean to the south of Ireland.

The time slot was confirmed following a successful rehearsal on Thursday.

But backup dates have been earmarked for later in the week if the weather scuppers the plans.

The rocket will be carrying eight shoebox-sized satellites, which will perform a variety of tasks for customers including Oman and the US and UK militaries.

They include a satellite aimed at monitoring illegal fishing off the coast of the UK and another which will be used to provide GPS and navigation for British forces overseas.

The payload also includes an orbiting factory to make alloys and semiconductors.

Cosmic Girl releases LauncherOne mid-air for the first time during a July 2019 drop test. Photo: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson.

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

A window for the flight first opened on October 29 and the team was aiming for take-off before the middle of November, but failed to secure the licence in time. It was finally secured in late December.

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, has described the launch date as a “phenomenal moment” that will “transform access to space across the world”.

Updated: January 06, 2023, 12:15 PM
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