Spaceport Cornwall will make history this month by putting satellites into space from UK soil with the first orbital launch.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, which will carry seven payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on the Start Me Up mission, had been due to lift-off on 14 December.

However this has been pushed back to after Christmas.

Launch delay

Virgin Orbit’s chief executive Dan Hart said: “With licences still outstanding for the launch itself and for the satellites within the payload, additional technical work needed to establish system health and readiness, and a very limited available launch window of only two days, we have determined that it is prudent to retarget launch for the coming weeks to allow ourselves and our stakeholders time to pave the way for full mission success.”

LauncherOne’s payloads will include the first ever satellite launched by the Sultanate of Oman, focused on Earth observation; future-facing return satellite tech aboard Wales’ first satellite, built by Space Forge; a maritime monitoring payload built by Horizon Technologies and the Satellite Applications Catapult; as well satellites from the MOD, DSTL and US National Reconnaissance Office.

Launch of many firsts

Start Me Up will be a launch of many firsts: the first orbital launch ever from the United Kingdom; the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, and the first commercial launch from Western Europe.

Virgin Orbit’s launch carrier aircraft – Cosmic Girl – will carry LauncherOne to an altitude of roughly 35,000 ft before deploying the rocket.

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