Oct 15th, 2022

Ready to rocket the UK space industry to new heights: Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne arrives at Spaceport Cornwall

Ready to rocket the UK space industry to new heights: Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne arrives at Spaceport Cornwall

  • Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne has arrived in Cornwall ahead of the first orbital launch from UK soil 
  • The rocket will launch seven payloads into Low Earth Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall  
  • The rocket arrived following key Ground Support Equipment (GSE) with launch on track for November 

LauncherOne, Virgin Orbit’s rocket set to deliver the first ever launch from UK soil, has arrived at Spaceport Cornwall.  

The rocket left California, loaded on a C-17 military aircraft on Thursday 13th of October, touching down at Cornwall Airport Newquay on Friday evening. 

Later this year, LauncherOne will carry seven payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on the Start Me Up mission. This will include the first ever satellite launched by the Sultanate of Oman focused on Earth Observation; future-facing return satellite tech aboard Wales’ first satellite, built by Space Forge; a Maritime monitoring payload built by Horizon Technologies and the Satellite Applications Catapult; as well satellites from the MOD, DSTL and US National Reconnaissance Office.

Start Me Up will be a launch of many firsts: the first orbital launch ever from the United Kingdom; the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, and the first commercial launch from Western Europe. 

With the landing of Virgin Orbit’s launch carrier aircraft – Cosmic Girl – which will carry LauncherOne to an altitude of roughly 35,000 ft before deploying the rocket, the arrival of key Ground Support Equipment and the integration of the majority of the payloads complete; LauncherOne is the last piece of the launch infrastructure to arrive on site.

Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall: “It’s been an incredible week at Spaceport Cornwall, and the arrival of LauncherOne is the cherry on top. Seeing the infrastructure in place makes our launch ambitions a reality. We cannot wait to see the rocket take to the skies soon, carrying Earth-benefitting satellite technology into Low Earth Orbit.”

Linda Taylor, Leader for Cornwall Council added: “This is an exciting and significant moment as we welcome LauncherOne to the first UK Spaceport right here in Cornwall. Cornwall Council is proud to be a part of this project which puts Cornwall once again on the global stage. Spaceport Cornwall is already inspiring our young people to become the next generation of scientists and innovators – we look forward to the ground breaking research and exploration that will be undertaken in the years to come, which will help us to better understand and address the needs of our planet and in particular climate change.”

The countdown to the first launch from Cornwall is well and truly underway. Virgin Orbit has been working closely with the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Royal Air Force (RAF), and the Spaceport Cornwall team to make all necessary preparations for liftoff. 


Editors notes:


The launch service was acquired by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from Virgin Orbit National Systems, a Virgin Orbit U.S. subsidiary serving classified customers, as the first task order on NRO’s Streamlined Launch Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contract or “SLIC.” Start Me Up manifest includes:

IOD-3 AMBER (aka IOD-3) – Developed by Satellite Applications Catapult (“SA Catapult”) and Horizon Technologies and built by AAC Clyde Space, all based in the U.K. IOD-3 Amber is expected to be the first of more than 20 Amber satellites to provide space-based Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) data to users.

Prometheus-2 –Two cubesats owned by the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s (MOD) Defense Science & Technology Laboratory Dstl. These satellites, co-funded with Airbus Defence and Space who are designing them jointly with In-Space Missions, will support MOD science and technology and activities both in orbit and on the ground through the development of ground systems focused at Dstl’s site near Portsmouth.

CIRCE (Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment) – CIRCE is part of a joint mission between the U.K.’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

DOVER – Developed by RHEA Group in the UK, it is the company’s first satellite in its 30-year history. The satellite is being co-funded through the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Navigation Program (NAVISP) and built by Open Cosmos of the United Kingdom. DOVER is a SmallSat that was created as a pathfinder for resilient global navigation satellite systems.

ForgeStar-0 – Developed by Space Forge of Wales, the satellite is a fully returnable and reusable platform to enable in-space manufacturing. This launch will be the first for the company’s ForgeStar platform and will test future returns from space technology.

AMAN – Oman’s first orbital mission, it is a single earth observation satellite meant to demonstrate the future feasibility of a larger constellation and was developed after a memorandum of understanding among the Sultanate of Oman, Polish Small Satellite manufacturer and operator SatRev, Poland-originated AI data analytics specialists TUATARA, and Omani-based merging technology innovator ETCO. The agreement includes additional planned small satellites, including this, the first in Oman’s history.

STORK-6 – Stork-6 is the next instalment of Polish Small Satellite manufacturer and operator SatRev’s STORK constellation. Virgin Orbit previously launched two spacecraft in this constellation on a previous launch and looks forward to continuing to launch SatRev’s STORK spacecraft in the Future.


Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) operates one of the most flexible and responsive space launch systems ever built. Founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017, the company began commercial service in 2021, and has already delivered commercial, civil, national security, and international satellites into orbit. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are air-launched from a modified 747-400 carrier aircraft that allows Virgin Orbit to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs.