Spaceport Cornwall still on course for Virgin Orbit rocket launch in 2022

Spaceport Cornwall still on course for Virgin Orbit rocket launch in 2022

It’s all systems go for rocket launches to take place in Cornwall this year.

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Spaceport bosses in the Duchy said all the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place to make sure Virgin Orbit can use Newquay airport to launch microsatellites into space from Cornwall towards the end of the year.

Melissa Thorpe, the head of Spaceport Cornwall, said the organisation continues to work with Sir Richard Branson’s company to ensure two launches take place in 2022.

The first launch would also be the opportunity to send Kernow Sat 1, a satellite designed and manufactured in Cornwall with a view to carry out earth science such as measuring ocean plastic pollution or mapping tree planting and deforestation or coastal erosion and look at issues that affect the Duchy, into space on the first trip.

Mrs Thorpe said: “Yes we are working with Virgin on two launches from our spaceport this year. One of which we are planning to have Kernow Sat 1 on, subject to the build schedule.

“We submitted our spaceport licence application to the CAA in October and are progressing through that process. Virgin have also submitted their operator’s licence and are also progressing with it.

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“Our satellite integration facility is on-track, with the shell building complete and the fit out about to commence.

“So yes, the pieces of the puzzle are almost complete and we are confident in a launch.”

The news comes after Virgin Orbit launched another rocket to space last week.

The booster, carrying seven satellites, was sent skyward from a Jumbo Jet flying out over the Pacific Ocean.

Playing a key role in the 747’s cockpit was RAF fighter pilot Matthew Stannard, who is on secondment to the British entrepreneur’s California firm.Melissa Thorpe, headof Spaceport Cornwall in front of Virgin Orbit’s Launcher at Newquay Airport (Image: Virgin Orbit)

The UK Ministry of Defence said it will be using Virgin Orbit to launch military satellites in the future.

The launch was Virgin Orbit’s third straight success following an inaugural demonstration launch in May 2020 that didn’t reach orbit.

UK Space Agency Deputy CEO Ian Annett said: “The UK is home to some of the world’s leading satellite manufacturers, which currently ship their products overseas for launch.

“We are supporting Virgin Orbit by fostering a new domestic launch market, with spaceports and launch operators providing services across the UK and catalysing investment from all over the world.”

The first UK launch by Virgin Orbit could happen as early as June or July, although much will depend on how quickly licensing paperwork goes through the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.

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