Western Europe’s first satellite launch mission lifts off

  • Converted Boeing 747 takes off from Newquay, Cornwall
  • Rocket will be deployed over the Atlantic in the next hour
  • The “Start Me Up” mission will deploy nine small satellites

NEWQUAY, England, Jan 9 (Reuters) – Virgin Orbit’s “Cosmic Girl” carrier plane lifted off from Newquay spaceport in Cornwall, south-west England on Monday evening, the first leg of the first-ever launch of satellite in Western Europe.

The modified Boeing 747 with a rocket under its wing took off and then soared over the Atlantic Ocean, where after an hour it will release a rocket at around 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).

More than 2,000 space fans cheered as the plane left the runway.

The “horizontal” launch catapulted the seaside resort in south-west England – which has a population of 20,000 and is famous for its reliable Atlantic airwaves – into the spotlight as Western Europe’s go-to destination for small satellites.

Virgin Orbit (VORB.O), part-owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, said nine satellites would be deployed into lower Earth orbit (LEO) from its LauncherOne rocket on its first mission outside its US base.

($1 = 0.8213 pounds)

Additional reporting by Sarah Young; edited by Nick Macfie and Sandra Maler, Kate Holton

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