The first ever space flight to launch from UK soil will finally go ahead in January, after Virgin Orbit gained the necessary license to launch satellites from Cornwall.
The long-awaited launch, which was originally announced back in 2018, has received approval from the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK. That means Virgin Orbit has been cleared to send a total of nine satellites from its LauncherOne rocket, which will head skywards aboard the modified 747 plane dubbed ‘Cosmic Girl’. The Boeing craft will take off horizontally and climb to 35,000 feet before sending the rocket into orbit carrying the satellite payload.
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Virgin had hoped to launch in December, but there was a delay in acquiring the license and technical issues still to be resolved. Now the green light has been issued for liftoff.
“Virgin Orbit met the licensing requirements having demonstrated to the UK Civil Aviation Authority it has taken all reasonable steps to ensure safety risks arising from launch activities are as low as reasonably practicable,” the CAA wrote in a press release. “Virgin Orbit also met other appropriate security and environmental aspects required for launch.”
Virgin says the issuance of the license is another step towards the UK finally getting its space wings, after years of delays and of Virgin being left in the dust by Branson’s fellow billionaire private space flight pioneers; Elon Musk of Space X and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin, who regularly launch into orbit from the United States.
“With our partners at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Spaceport Cornwall, UK Space Agency and our payload customers, together we are progressing towards the first launch from Cornwall – keeping a strong focus on a safe and successful mission for all,” said Virgin Orbit boss Dan Hart.
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