The primary orbital area launch from the UK is about to take off
Dubbed Cosmic Girl, the modified Boeing 747 will take off from Spaceport Cornwall in south-west England.
Hugh Hastings/Stringer/Getty Images
LONDON – The first orbital rocket launch in western Europe is scheduled to take place in the UK on Monday evening.
The modified Boeing 747 aircraft, dubbed “Cosmic Girl,” will take off from Spaceport Cornwall in south-west England at 10.16pm local time, conditions permitting, but backup launch dates have also been scheduled for later this month.
At around 35,000 feet, the Virgo Orbit The rocket will be deployed over the Atlantic and will launch nine small satellites into orbit in what is known as a horizontal launch.
Technologies to be sent into space as part of the commercial launch include the first satellite, launched from Oman, focused on Earth observation, and the first satellite designed and built in Wales, as well as satellites from various British and US Government Agencies.
Launching missiles from British soil allows the country to be “more responsible about the trails [it’s] bringing products into space,” said Melissa Thorpe, director of Spaceport Cornwall, on the BBC’s Today program on Monday.
Crowds are expected to gather to watch the event, with Spaceport Cornwall inviting the general public to witness what they have described as a “historic moment”. The planned kick-off event will also include a “Silent Disco” tent.
Virgin Orbit had lowered its forecast for launches in 2022 to three, down from originally expecting four to six earlier in the year.
When it announced its third-quarter 2022 results in November, Virgin Orbit also said it had raised $25 million to top up its exhaustive cash reserves. The money came from the Virgin Group, British billionaire Richard Branson’s larger conglomerate, which also includes airline Virgin Atlantic, fitness group Virgin Active and a financial services company virgin money.
Virgin Orbit shares hit a three-week high on Friday, trading at $2.11.
– CNBC’s Michael Sheetz contributed to this article.