Virgin Boeing 747 will launch a rocket into space | spcilvly


At the southwestern tip of England, hanging towards the Atlantic, the remote region of Cornwall rarely feels like the center of the world.

But recently locals have felt tantalizingly close as they watch a very special plane fly low, take off from the runway at the small Newquay airport (the 29th largest airport in the UK) and soar through the skies over the coast before landing back. new. .

This is not just any plane. It is also not a normal Boeing 747, as it appears from the ground. In fact, it is the “Queen of the Skies” repurposed for the space race, undertaking test flights before taking part in the UK’s first orbital space launch next month. And it will take off from Spaceport Cornwall, which shares the airport’s regular 1.7-mile runway.

Marc Andrew, from nearby Newquay, traveled to the spaceport after work to watch the plane land this week.

“It was amazing to see and it will be a nice piece of history to tell my little one when he’s older,” she told CNN. It’s now preparing to return for a November release.

Cosmic Girl, as the plane has been called, is the ship in Virgin Orbit’s bid to launch seven satellites into space.

Former passenger jumbo jet in service with Virgin Atlantic until 2015, it has been modified to carry LauncherOne, a California-made rocket that will enter Earth orbit.

Cosmic Girl, a former Virgin Atlantic 747, will launch from Newquay, UK

Next month, Cosmic Girl will take off from Newquay’s clifftop landing strip with LauncherOne under her wing and, once the 747 reaches 34,000 feet, she will launch the rocket.

Inside there will be seven payloads, or satellites, that will begin to circle the planet in low Earth orbit.

In a test last year, the rocket, launched from beneath the 747’s left wing, traveled at up to 17,000 miles per hour as it approached space.

Using a 747 for a horizontal launch allows for a “broader range of orbits than would be possible with a traditional ground-launched system,” Virgin Orbit wrote in a statement.

The event will be the first orbital space launch for the UK and the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, according to the company. It will also be the first satellite launch in Europe, according to Ian Annett, deputy chief executive of the UK Space Agency.

LauncherOne completed its first full launch rehearsal in Long Beach, California, on 2 October, before flying to the UK last Friday to meet up with Cosmic Girl, which arrived in Cornwall on 11 October.

Cosmic Girl completed a nearly three-hour test flight around Cornwall and south-west England on October 14, and Cornish locals noticed it flying low over their gardens.

Rocket LauncherOne has now joined Cosmic Girl at Newquay Spaceport.

Virgin Orbit chief pilot Matthew Stannard, who will fly the 747 for the launch, said: “It feels amazing to bring Cosmic Girl home to the UK. We’re weeks away from the first UK launch at Cornwall Spaceport, so it’s all very real. ”

Melissa Thorpe, director of Spaceport Cornwall, said: “Seeing the infrastructure in place makes our launch ambitions a reality.”

Hoping to see more Cosmic Girls? Virgin Orbit plans horizontal launches to Australia, Brazil, Japan, Poland and the Republic of Korea.

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