Modified Boeing 747-400 to carry satellites to Atlantic launch range by 2021

Virgin Orbit is aiming to offer satellite launches from a Spaceport at Newquay Airport in Cornwall by 2021, using a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft called ‘Cosmic Girl’.

Cosmic Girl will carry a LauncherOne rocket under its wing to a launch range over the Atlantic and release it at around 35,000 feet for onward flight into space, carrying a small satellite into Earth orbit.

New partnership could result in first British satellite launch in 50 years

This could result in the first British satellite launch in 50 years following the new partnership, which was signed today at Farnborough.

The news was welcomed by UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah, who said: “The announcement of a strategic partnership between Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Spaceport is great news for the region and the UK’s ambitions for regular, reliable and responsible access to space.”

“This partnership could see Virgin Orbit’s innovative horizontal launch technology helping the UK’s small satellite industry access space from the convenience of a Spaceport in Cornwall.

“We will work with both partners to support their ambitions, as we take the next steps in our national spaceflight programme as part of the government’s modern Industrial strategy.”

Spaceport Cornwall – part of county’s ambition for £1bn space economy

LauncherOne enables Virgin Orbit to conduct low-cost missions quickly and efficiently by bypassing heavily trafficked established launch ranges.

Spaceport Cornwall says it will provide California-based Virgin Orbit with a strategic Western European location and make a major contribution to the Cornwall’s ambition to create a £1 billion space economy as part of its response the UK Industrial Strategy.

Britain is a world-leader in the production of small satellites, supporting more than £250 billion of GDP in the wider economy, but lacks any means to get them into space. The fast-growing global satellite launch market is predicted to be worth around £10 billion over the next decade. It is estimated that up to 2,600 microsatellites (under 50kg) will require launch over the next five years alone.

Adam Paynter, leader of Cornwall Council, said Spaceport Cornwall could eventually create 480 jobs and contribute £25 million a year to the local economy. The Cornwall Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Space Action Plan predicts that the wider space sector could create thousands more jobs in Cornwall and by 2030 be worth £1 billion a year.

Cornwall Airport Newquay, which is owned by Cornwall Council, was first unveiled as one of the UK’s potential Spaceport locations in July 2014 because of its long runway, uncongested airspace and direct access to the Atlantic Ocean.

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