Richard Branson announces launch of first-ever rocket from British soil to rival Musk

Virgin Orbit, which is part of Sir Branson’s Virgin Group, is set to launch six satellites from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay sometime this summer. The full list of satellites set to be carried into space has now been unveiled, bringing the UK closer to its dream of becoming the first European country to launch satellites into space from home soil sometime this summer.

The ‘DOVER’ pathfinder satellite, which belonged to the international engineering firm Rhea Group, built in Oxfordshire by space company Open Cosmos, is the latest satellite to be confirmed by this announcement.

According to the UK Space Agency, the satellite will transmit an “innovative new signal”, that will provide crucial data as part of RHEA’s research projects.

Sir Branson shared the news, tweeting: “The next Virgin Orbit mission will take off from Spaceport Cornwall and marks the UK’s first ever satellite launch. Very exciting times to come.”

The DOVER satellite completes the lineup for the Virgin’s maiden 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.

The Prometheus-2 satellite will be launched from Spaceport Cornwall as part of a collaboration between the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and international partners, including the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Unlike many rockets, Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One takes off horizontally, carried aloft by a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, which is named Cosmic Girl.

The Government hopes that the opening of Spaceport Cornwall will provide a much-needed shot in the arm to the UK’s space industry, which is already home to more than 47,000 jobs across the country and supports billions of pounds of wider economic activity.

Developing domestic launch capabilities will give Britain a foothold in the growing global launch market, delivering a further boost to the thriving space and satellite sector.

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Emma Jones, RHEA’s UK Business Director, said: “This is a momentous event for RHEA.

“This year we are celebrating our 30th anniversary and it is a great milestone to launch our first ever satellite in the same year.

“The UK is in the very desirable position of establishing a number of spaceports, and it is thrilling to have a RHEA satellite on board the first launch to take off from UK soil.”

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.

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