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- January 9th, 2023 Posted in News

Tonight’s scheduled launch of the ‘Start Me Up’ mission from Spaceport Cornwall is set to be a historic moment for the UK and its space industry, with it being the first orbital launch from UK soil.

It signals a major milestone for the UK space sector, furthering its reputation as a world leader in small satellite manufacturing and innovation to address a range of challenges and objectives that impact people’s day-to-day lives.

UKspace President, Dr Alice Bunn, says: “Tonight’s planned first orbital space launch from the UK is a historic moment. Over the past 20 years, the UK space sector has built one of the most innovative and highly skilled sectors in our economy, valued at around £14.8 billion a year. And with continued investment, this could double to £30 billion by 2030. The sector already provides 42,000 jobs, and our analysis shows it could create a further 30,000 in the next decade, many of which are ‘green jobs’ in areas like climate change monitoring, smart transport routing and flood prevention. These jobs are spread across the UK including Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Midlands and the South West.

“The industry is at a critical stage of development as we are on the cusp of an industrial revolution in space. Small satellites provide essential services for every single one of us; they are the invisible enabler of our modern lives, and the UK already has a global lead in their manufacture. This trend is increasing, which is why having a launch capability in the UK is so strategically significant.”

Several UKspace members are invested in tonight’s launch, since they have designed, developed or co-funded payloads on-board Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket. They include:

  • IOD-3 AMBER (aka IOD-3) – built by AAC Clyde Space for Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies, IOD-3 Amber is expected to be the first of more than 20 Amber satellites providing space-based Maritime Domain Awareness data to users.
  • Prometheus-2 – Airbus Defence and Space has co-funded these two CubeSats for the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl), co-designing them with In-Space Missions. They will support MOD science and technology activities both in orbit and on the ground through the development of ground systems focused at Dstl’s site near Portsmouth.
  • DOVER Pathfinder – RHEA Group’s first satellite, which is co-funded through the European Space Agency’s Navigation Program and built by Open Cosmos. DOVER is a SmallSat created as a pathfinder for resilient global navigation satellite systems.
  • ForgeStar-0 – developed by Space Forge in 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.

The ‘Start Me Up’ mission is a collaborative effort between the United Kingdom Space Agency, Cornwall Council, the Royal Air Force and Virgin Orbit.

Launch proceedings are set to start between 21:45 and 22:45 tonight, when the Cosmic Girl 747 will take off from Spaceport Cornwall. Between 22:54 and 23:54, the LauncherOne rocket will be released, with Cosmic Girl returning to Cornwall between midnight at 01:00.

Virgin Orbit will be broadcasting a live stream on YouTube from 21:00 tonight.