When is it, where is it going, how can I watch?

First UK rocket launch scheduled for Monday (Ben Birchall/PA)

The UK’s first ever spacecraft will launch today.

On Monday (January 9), a modified 747 jumbo jet will launch a rocket over the Atlantic to take nine satellites high above Earth as part of The Virgin Orbit: Start Me Up mission.

If successful, it will be a significant turning point for UKspace, heralding the emergence of a domestic startup sector.

It is named Start Me Up in homage to a Rolling Stones song featured on the 1981 album Tattoo You.

When is space launch in the UK?

The operation begins at Newquay Airport in Cornwall just before midnight GMT.

Due to the pre-existing infrastructure, Cornwall Airport Newquay was chosen as the location for Spaceport Cornwall. The airport also has one of the UK’s longest regional runways and direct access to the Atlantic flight path, and has a low civilian population in the area.

The American company Virgin Orbit is used for the launch.

It was founded by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, who converted one of his old airliners into a rocket called LauncherOne under the left wing.

Virgin Orbit, usually located in Long Beach, California, has so far successfully launched four rockets over the Pacific Ocean. Mojave Airport and Space, located north of Los Angeles, served as a launch pad for flights.

    (Virgin Orbit)

(Virgin Orbit)

Where is it going?

The Boeing 747, also known as Cosmic Girl, will take off from Newquay and fly west across the Atlantic Ocean to a designated launch site just off the coast of Irish counties Kerry and Cork.

The Virgin aircraft will launch the rocket at the right time and at 35,000 feet, at which point the rocket’s first stage engine will fire to begin its ascent into orbit.

Nine tiny satellites will be launched, if all goes according to plan, into orbit more than 500 kilometers above the Earth.

They are used for both civil and military purposes, and their applications range from ocean monitoring to navigation technology.

Cardiff-based company Space Forge owns one of the tiny satellites. The company is trying to produce new, valuable materials and components in space using satellites.

Deenah Sanchez, launch director, told BBC News it would be a complex operation.

“We basically have three different launch systems out there,” she said.

“We have our ground equipment, we have all the plane and the rocket, so we have people who specialize in each area here in the control room.”

How can I watch a space launch in the UK?

People across the UK will be able to watch the launch in real time alongside fans around the world by joining Virgin Orbit’s YouTube account, in addition to a live stream that will air at Spaceport Cornwall throughout the evening.

Coverage will begin at 21:00 UK time on Monday, January 9, 2023.

Here are the current watch start times:

19:00: Audience members who have booked tickets for an in-person event will start arriving at the venue

22:16 to 23:16: The Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl will take off horizontally carrying a rocket

22:54 to 23:54: Rocket will be launched

From midnight to 1am on Tuesday, January 10: Cosmic Girl will return to the base

1.15am to 1.30pm on Tuesday, January 10: Confirmation of separation of the satellite from the rocket

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