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Cosmic Girl releases LauncherOne mid-air for the first time during a July 2019 drop test

British-built satellite completes line-up for first launch from Spaceport Cornwall

Joe Bevan
Authored by Joe Bevan
Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2022 - 09:13

A new research satellite from international engineering firm Rhea Group, built in Oxfordshire by space company Open Cosmos, will be launched from Cornwall later this year, the Government has announced.

Virgin Orbit will launch the ‘DOVER’ pathfinder satellite from Spaceport Cornwall. The satellite will transmit an innovative new signal, specially designed by engineers at RHEA, to provide data from space that can be used on the ground to obtain a position or an accurate time. It will broadcast these new signals so that their performance can be tested as part of the research project.

This new satellite completes the line-up for the UK’s first launch, which also includes satellites from organisations such as Space Forge, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies, as well as the Prometheus-2 research demonstration satellites. Prometheus-2 was co-funded and designed with Airbus Defence and Space and assembled by In-Space Missions, as part of a collaboration between the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and international partners, including the US National Reconnaissance Office.

The UK is poised to become the first country in Europe to launch satellites into orbit this year from home soil, a key ambition of the UK Government’s National Space Strategy. Spaceport Cornwall is at the heart of a growing aerospace and space cluster and will create 150 jobs in the local area.

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “The countdown is on to the first satellite launch from Spaceport Cornwall, with a full complement of satellites confirmed by Virgin Orbit for what promises to be a landmark moment for our thriving space sector.”

During the launch mission, a Virgin Orbit 747 named Cosmic Girl will take off from the runway at Spaceport Cornwall, carrying a rocket beneath its wing. The plane will fly out over the ocean before blasting the rocket into space, delivering satellites into orbit around the Earth. In the cockpit will be Squadron Leader Mathew ‘Stanny’ Stannard, an RAF Test Pilot serving on industrial placement as one of Virgin Orbit’s pilots.

This will be the first satellite launch from UK soil and Virgin Orbit’s first mission outside the US. It follows the successful ‘Straight Up’ mission that delivered seven satellites into space from Mojave in California on Saturday 2 July.

Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, said: “We’re thrilled to have ‘DOVER’ complete the line-up of satellites onboard Virgin Orbit’s first launch from Cornwall. Each payload highlights the innovation happening within the small satellite industry, and how it can benefit life on earth, while showcasing the growing collaboration between UK Space and international partners.

“This is another great moment in the countdown to launch from Cornwall.”

Photo credit: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson

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