Another step forward for spaceport


The reality of a first space launch from Cornwall moved a step closer this weekend.

Virgin Orbit successfully completed the first full orbital launch of its LauncherOne system in the US yesterday (Jan 17).

During this launch, LauncherOne was carried to an altitude of more than 30,000 feet before it was dropped from the carrier aircraft and ignited its engines, launching into orbit. LauncherOne then deployed its payload into low Earth orbit.

The payload consisted of ten CubeSats selected by NASA and primarily designed and built by American universities.

As Virgin Orbit’s key delivery partner in the UK, the flight’s success accelerates Spaceport Cornwall’s campaign to become the UK’s first horizontal launch spaceport.

Ian Annett, deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: “Virgin Orbit’s plans to operate from Spaceport Cornwall are a key part of the UK’s ambition to be the first place in Europe to offer satellite launch services. The incredible demonstration of the LauncherOne system in the US brings this one step closer to reality.”

Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for transport, added: “This is a bold step forward for Spaceport Cornwall as the now proven technology shows to the world that Virgin Orbit, and Cornwall, are capable of competing for a share of the global market for launching small satellites. A market which is worth a potential £3.9 billion.

“We are completely elated for the incredible team at Virgin Orbit after the years of hard work and dedication to reach this milestone and the team in Cornwall is looking forward to our partnership strengthening as we move towards our own launch in 2022.”