Virgin Orbit’s 747 ‘Cosmic Girl’ has taken off from Spaceport Cornwall with its Launcher One rocket for the ‘Start Me Up’ launch, the first space launch from the UK.

Start Me Up is a collaborative effort between the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA), Cornwall Council, the Royal Air Force, and Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB).

The Start Me Up mission will carry satellites from seven customers to space, including commercial and government payloads from several nations and a collaborative US-UK mission.

It is the first orbital launch from UK soil or from anywhere in western Europe. Tim Peake, the British astronaut, described the launch as “groundbreaking”.

Licenses issued

In late December, Virgin Orbit was issued first-of-their-kind launch and range control licenses, which ensured all regulatory, safety, and environmental requirements have been met.

In a tweet on Monday night, the Virgin Orbit account said: “For those of you new here, Cosmic Girl is the name of our modified Boeing 747 aircraft. A former plane, we took her in and made upgrades to introduce the next step in her evolution – launches to space. (We’re fans of sustainability here!)

“We gutted the entire main deck interior of Cosmic Girl, removing all seats and overhead bins to get rid of unnecessary weight. The lighter, the better!

“We also transformed the upper deck (aka the former Premium & Economy cabin) into a small mission control room so our Launch Engineers can oversee missions during flight.

“Once we arrive at Launcher One’s drop site, the pilots will fly Cosmic Girl in a looping “racetrack” pattern as we look to clear final go/no-go calls.”

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