This will be the first-ever orbital launch from the UK, and the fifth operational mission for Virgin Orbit, and the sixth overall flight of LauncherOne. "Start Me Up" will be lofting nine individual small satellites for seven projects.
"The missions of these satellites span a wide range of activities aimed at improving life on planet Earth, including reducing the environmental impact of production; preventing illegal trafficking, smuggling, and terrorism; and a host of national security functions."
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 (S&T) activities both in orbit and on the ground through the development of ground systems focused at Dstl’s site near Portsmouth.
AMAN – Oman’s first orbital mission, it is a single earth observation satellite meant to demonstrate the future feasibility of a larger constellation. It was developed as a result of 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.
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.
IOD-3 AMBER (aka IOD-3) – IOD-3 AMBER was developed by Satellite Applications Catapult (“SA Catapult”) and Horizon Technologies and built by AAC Clyde Space, all based in the U.K. It is expected to be the first of more than 20 Amber satellites to provide space-based Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) data to users.
STORK-6 – Stork-6 is the next installment of Polish Small Satellite manufacturer and operator SatRev’s STORK constellation. Virgin Orbit has previously launched three spacecraft in this constellation on our Above the Clouds and Straight Up Missions, and looks forward to continuing to launch SatRev’s STORK spacecraft in the future.
Virgin Orbits' LauncherOne rocket provides orbital launch services for small satellite customers, including national governments and commercial/private industries.
70 ft in length.
57,000 lbm is the typical takeoff weight of a LauncherOne rocket, including the satellites.
8,000 mph is the typical maximum speed of LauncherOne's first stage.
17,500 mph is the typical maximum speed of LauncherOne's second stage.
75% – the amount of atmosphere LauncherOne has cleared at the point of release.
5 sec time between the release of LauncherOne and ignition of NewtonThree.
Originally designed to be launched from underneath the WhiteKnightTwo spaceplane, the same plane that launches suborbital Virgin Galactic missions, LauncherOne was redesigned in 2017 to fly underneath a 747 aircraft.
LauncherOne is the first air-launched liquid-fueled rocket in history and has a restartable second-stage engine for precise payload delivery operations once in orbit.
The rocket is carried into the air by Cosmic Girl, a modified 747 aircraft, and then launched from underneath one of the plane's wings. Its engine is ignited five seconds after release.
The air launch design means LauncherOne can be launched from any location on Earth. Virgin Orbit plans to use a variety of runways in California, Florida, the U.K., and potentially Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
Photo: LauncherOne data courtesy of Virgin Orbit
This is Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747 aircraft built in 2001 for Virgin Atlantic airways. Virgin Orbit bought the plane in 2015 and transformed it into an air launch platform for the orbital LauncherOne rocket.
Cosmic Girl’s job is to provide data connections to LauncherOne and ferry the fully-fueled rocket from a runway up to its release altitude and location out over the open ocean.
During launch, the plane will pitch up 25 degrees before releasing LauncherOne.
Cosmic Girl will then immediately perform an evasive maneuver to safely get out of the way of the rocket so that the crew onboard the plane will be safe in the event of a LauncherOne failure at engine start -- which happened on the first mission.
Cosmic Girl then returns to a runway to prepare for its next mission. The plane's base is the Mojave Air & Space Port in California.
Photo Credit: Virgin Orbit
Spaceport Cornwall is located at Cornwall Airport Newquay, an active civilian airport with passenger flights around the UK and Europe. It will be one of the only places in the world where you can be on a passenger airplane and look out your window to see a launch to space about to happen. In order to integrate a Spaceport into an airport, two things are needed: the right facilities and the right legislation to launch.
Cornwall Airport Newquay is developing operational capability to act as a licensed spaceport under the Space Industry Act 2018, trading under the brand of Spaceport Cornwall. Compared to the traditional ‘vertical’ launch site, Spaceport Cornwall is a horizontal spaceport catering for carrier aircraft, spaceplanes and other vehicles requiring the use of a runway to take-off or land.
At the heart of Spaceport Cornwall is the Centre for Space Technologies (CST), a series of world-leading R&D and innovation facilities designed to provide safe, dedicated and responsible access to space.
Spaceport Cornwall is home to a growing cluster of space and satellite companies all working together to enable better access to space for the benefit of Life on Earth.
Image and caption: Spaceport Cornwall