Satellites Prepared For 1st UK Orbital Launch

The satellites are held inside boxes that will dispense them at the right altitude

They may look like nondescript grey boxes, but they are about to make history.

Inside these containers are the nine satellites that will become the first-ever payloads to launch to orbit from the UK.

They will go up on a rocket operated by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company.

The mission, likely to occur sometime in the next few weeks, will be initiated from Cornwall.

It will see a repurposed Virgin Atlantic jumbo carry the rocket and its passengers out over the Atlantic to a designated launch zone just south of Ireland.

At the appropriate moment, at an altitude of 35,000ft, the 747 will release the rocket, which will then ignite its engine to begin the climb high into the sky.

The event is being billed as a big one for the UK space sector.

Internationally renowned for making satellites of all sizes, the country’s space industry has always had to send its products to foreign spaceports to get them into orbit.

Adding a launch capability means the sector will in future be able to do everything from first design through to mission operations.

This means cost and time savings for British firms but the hope is the final piece of the jigsaw will also make the UK a more attractive place for other nation’s companies to come and invest.

The first Cornwall launch will support a range of applications, both civil and defence.

A number of those nine satellites will be gathering intelligence, such as listening across radio transmissions coming from ships.

One payload that has attracted particular attention is Wales’s first-ever satellite.

Produced by Cardiff start-up Space Forge, it will demonstrate key components for future mini orbital factories.

The company envisions making high-value, high-fidelity materials in the weightless environment of space before bringing them back down to Earth.

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