Way Clear for Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit to Launch Rockets From Britain by Plane

No more bureaucratic hurdles stand in the way of allowing a converted jumbo jet to take off from British soil as a flying launch pad for launchers. The government in London announced this on Wednesday.

British billionaire Richard Branson’s American launch company Virgin Orbit has received all the necessary permits. In addition, it says that the company has taken all required steps to ensure that the safety risks arising from launch activities are as low as reasonably achievable.

The first takeoff from the new spaceport in Newquay in the southeast of England is scheduled for a few weeks. Virgin Orbit has been conducting similar launches in the US since last year.

In Virgin Orbit’s first mission to Britain, a converted Boeing 747 will take off from an airport near the southwestern town of Newquay. It will launch a vehicle into space around 107 km above the Atlantic Ocean. As the plane returns to the airport, the launch vehicle will launch several satellites into orbit.

According to the British, it is the first launch of its kind in Europe. In honour of the British rock band Rolling Stones, the mission is called “Start Me Up” after the hit of the same name by the group Mick Jagger.

“The planned launch reinforces our position as a leading spacefaring nation,” said Transport Secretary Mark Harper. This would stimulate growth and innovation across the sector and create thousands of jobs and training opportunities.

Newquay is one of seven planned spaceports in the UK. The first vertical launch is scheduled for next year and will take place from the northernmost British island of Unst, north of Scotland. The British government hopes the space industry will add € 4.3 billion to the British economy over the next decade.

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