Newquay and the Cosmic Girl

As any Anthony Joshua fan will tell you, predicting the future is unwise.

That said, numerous companies make good money doing just that and according to one of them more than 3000 satellites will be launched into space before 2027, generating nearly $300 billion in the process.

This week, the UK Government announced that it is keen to get in on that action.

The UK space industry has an excellent reputation for building satellites and for processing the data that they send back, once they are in orbit around our planet.

What this country does not have, is a track record of doing the bit in between: that is, getting the satellites from here to there.

Prospero X-3 satellite flight spare in London's Science Museum Prospero X-3 remains the only British satellite to have been launched using a British Rocket but even that wasn’t done in Britain as the 1971 launch took place at Woomera, South Australia.

This may soon change.

Minister for Science, Chris Skidmore MP has been widely praised for his enthusiastic support of the British space-based earth observation and telecommunications industries during the six months he has been in the job.

That reputation was further enhanced this week, when he took to Twitter – the medium of choice for the modern politician – to announce that his Government is prepared to invest up to £20 million into Newquay’s “Spaceport Cornwall” project.

The hope is that this will make it the base for Richard Branson’s satellite launch system, Virgin Orbit.

Unlike traditional launches where rockets take off from the ground, Virgin Orbit’s plan is to use a modified Boeing 747-400, called Cosmic Girl (maybe Richard is a Jamiroquai fan?) to carry their delivery rocket, LauncherOne under its wing.

When Cosmic Girl reaches 35,000 feet, the same altitude as commercial traffic, LauncherOne will deploy, light up its boosters and fire its cargo into orbit from there.

That should make for a slightly more interesting Instagram picture than one of the in-flight food!

This smart idea means that places such as Cornwall, whose latitudes are not the best for launches, can still be the origin of these missions. Also, Virgin Orbit is aiming at the emerging nano-satellite market which is smart business too.

The investment is dependent upon a successful business plan and a successful test of this technology. Whilst this hasn’t happened yet, Richard Branson recently confirmed on his blog, that all the constituent parts have been successfully tested and final assembly has commenced.

One wonders what traditional visitors to Newquay will make of sharing the train there with rocket scientists but in a few years’ time it maybe that they, and us are looking skyward at the next development of one of the UK’s most successful industries.

See the original article on Alistair Maclenan's LinkedIn Page >>
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