Important details and viewing information for the forthcoming UK historic space launch

The UK's inaugural orbital space launch is scheduled to happen today.

Tomorrow, a modified jumbo jet (a 747) will initiate a rocket launch over the Atlantic Ocean, carrying nine satellites into high Earth orbits. This mission is known as "The Virgin Orbit: Start Me Up," and its success could mark a significant milestone for the UK's space industry.

The launch is named after the iconic Rolling Stones song, "Start Me Up," featured on their 1981 album Tattoo You.

When and where is the UK space launch?

The operation will commence just before midnight GMT at Newquay Airport, which is located in Cornwall. The decision to use this site was driven by its existing infrastructure, long regional airport runways, direct access to an Atlantic flight path, and its sparse civilian population.

Virgin Orbit, a US-based company, is managing the launch. Founded by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Orbit has converted one of its old passenger airliners into a rocket carrier, named LauncherOne, which is attached beneath the left wing.

Typically situated in Long Beach, California, Virgin Orbit has already accomplished four successful rocket launches over the Pacific Ocean. The Mojave Air and Space Port, situated north of Los Angeles, served as the launchpad for these flights.

The 747, known as "Cosmic Girl," will depart from Newquay and travel west across the Atlantic to a predefined launch area off the coasts of Kerry and Cork in Ireland.

At an altitude of 35,000 feet, the Virgin plane will release the rocket, initiating its first-stage engine firing and ascent to orbit.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, nine miniature satellites will be deployed and positioned in orbits above 500 kilometers from Earth.

These satellites serve various purposes, both civilian and military, ranging from ocean monitoring to navigation technology.

One of the satellites is owned by Space Forge, a company based in Cardiff. They aim to produce valuable materials and components in space using satellites.

According to Deenah Sanchez, the launch director, the operation will be intricate: "We essentially have three distinct launch systems involved. We have the ground hardware, the entire airplane, and the rocket. As a result, there are specialists for each area present in the control room.

How can I witness the UK space launch?

People throughout the United Kingdom will have the opportunity to experience the space launch in real-time alongside enthusiasts worldwide by tuning into Virgin Orbit's YouTube channel. Alternatively, they can also join the live launch stream taking place at Spaceport Cornwall throughout the entire evening.

The coverage will commence at 9pm UK time on Monday, January 9, 2023.

Below are the current timings for the launch viewing event:

7pm: The arrival of individuals who have secured tickets to attend the event in person will commence.

10.16pm to 11.16pm: The Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl will gracefully ascend into the skies, carrying the rocket on its horizontal path.

10.54pm to 11.54pm: The moment of liberation will occur as the rocket is released into its own trajectory.

Midnight to 1am Tuesday, January 10: Cosmic Girl will gracefully descend back to its home base.

1.15am to 1.30pm Tuesday, January 10: Confirmation will be provided regarding the successful separation of the satellite from the rocket.

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