Virgin Orbit says it is ready to launch a rocket from Spaceport Cornwall, which would be the first orbital space launch from the UK.
Virgin Orbit, which uses a modified Boeing 747 to carry LauncherOne rockets with payloads and launch them into orbit from the air, said its latest rocket had completed a full launch rehearsal and was ready for flight.
The window for the launch will be determined by the launch permitting regulatory process, Virgin Orbit said in a press release on October 5, 2022.
The UK last attempted space launches back in the 1960s with the Black Arrow program, but the plan was canceled after just one launch in 1971 because it was too expensive and difficult.
Virgin Orbit was founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017 and began commercial service in 2021. It has already delivered 33 satellites into orbit. The first UK launch will carry six satellites into orbit and integrating the payload into the rocket’s fairing is due to start this week.
Using an air-based launcher can turn nearly any airport into a spaceport, Virgin Orbit says.
“The launch from the Cornwall spaceport will demonstrate Virgin Orbit’s ability to enable virtually any country to become a space faring nation,” the company commented in the statement. Virgin Orbit also hopes to bring its air launch system to Australia, Brazil, Japan, Poland and South Korea.