UK Gears up for a Historic Launch This Summer, the First of Its Kind from Western Europe

Virgin Orbit's Launcher One will carry the first satellites launched from British territory 6 photos
Photo: Virgin Orbit
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It’s safe to say that Britain’s space industry is booming, and it’s just getting starting. After getting the green light for seven spaceports to operate throughout the UK, a domestic launch market is slowly emerging. The first British satellite launch is set for this summer, while the country’s first rocket in more than half a century is also gearing up for launch in the near future.
The first satellite launch from the UK, planned for this summer, will also become the first launch of a commercial rocket from Western Europe territory. Until now, domestic satellite developers had to ship their products overseas in order to fly them to space.

The ability to launch them from the same territory where they are made will greatly reduce costs, in addition to other benefits, resulting in wider access to space for the domestic industry.

The Prometheus-2 space mission will take off from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay. Two satellites, no bigger than a shoebox each, will be carried by the LauncherOne rocket developed by Virgin Orbit. The satellites were developed by the Hampshire-based company In-Space Missions, together with Airbus, as part of a project supported by the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD). The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) was also a partner in the project.

According to MOD, this pioneering mission will support a connected space communication system, with these tiny Cubesats acting as testing platforms for “monitoring radio signals including GPS and sophisticated imaging.” The goal is to establish new procedures and algorithms for satellite operations.

LauncherOne will take off horizontally with the help of Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747 jet. Royal Air Force pilots have been practicing flying Cosmic Girl during a recent satellite launch in California.

According to the UK Space Agency, the two Cubesats will operate in low Earth Orbit, at 50-100 km (31-62 miles) apart.

This historic satellite launch will be one of the first steps toward a larger satellite network meant for space-based intelligence and surveillance.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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