The first orbital space launch from the UK is due to take off

The first orbital space launch from the UK is due to take off



The modified Boeing 747 plane, named “Cosmic Girl”, will take off from Spaceport Cornwall in southwest England.

Hugh Hastings / Stringer / Getty Images

LONDON — The first orbital rocket launch in Western Europe is set to take place in the U.K. on Monday evening.

The modified Boeing 747 plane, named “Cosmic Girl,” will take off from Spaceport Cornwall in southwest England at 10.16 p.m. local time if conditions allow, but back-up launch dates have also been scheduled for later this month.

At around 35,000 feet, the Virgin Orbit rocket will be deployed over the Atlantic, carrying nine small satellites into orbit in what is known as a horizontal launch.

Among the technologies being sent into space as part of the commercial launch are the first satellite to be launched by Oman, focusing on Earth observation, and the first satellite designed and built in Wales, as well as satellites from various U.K. and U.S. government departments.

Launching rockets from British soil allows the country to “be more responsible with the ways [it’s] putting products into space,” Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, told the BBC’s “Today” show Monday.

Crowds are expected to gather to watch the event, with Spaceport Cornwall having invited the general public to witness what they have described as a “historic moment.” The designated launch event will also include a “silent disco” tent.

Virgin Orbit had lowered its forecast for launches in 2022 to three, having initially expected to make between four and six earlier in the year.

On announcing its third-quarter results for 2022 in November, Virgin Orbit also said it raised $25 million to boost its depleting cash reserve. The money came from Virgin Group, the wider conglomerate owned by British billionaire Richard Branson which also includes airline Virgin Atlantic, gym group Virgin Active and financial services company Virgin Money.

Shares of Virgin Orbit hit a three-week high Friday, trading at $2.11.

—CNBC’s Michael Sheetz contributed to this article.



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