After decades of excitement over NASA launches, and now talking about a billionaire space race fueled by some of the world’s richest people, the UK might be forgiven for feeling a little snubbed when it comes to the final frontier of.
Although like Helen Sharmanhe became the first Briton to go into space in 1989, and Tim Peake27 years after a historic spacewalk to fly a flag for Britain in the stars, the island has never launched its own rocket into space before.
Until now (or, at least, not long from now).
sneak in early NASA delays Artemis 1 launchthe legendary Cosmic Girl will take off from Cornwall in the next few weeks.
Here’s everything you need to know about taking part in the UK’s space race over time.
How will the launch work?
The key thing about this launch is that it doesn’t remind you of NASA’s classic spectacle, where a massive spacecraft is launched vertically into the atmosphere.
Cosmic Girl might be named a replica Star Wars ship, but it’s actually an old Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747.
The seats were removed and the upper deck was converted into a control center for launch engineers before arriving on the southwest coast from Virgin Orbit’s factory in California.
Below its left flank is LauncherOne, a 21m (69 ft) rocket that will launch 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean before accelerating to 8,000 mph to put seven satellites into orbit.
So when it comes to the view from Cornwall Spaceport, it looks no different from any other taking off as it takes off under the cover of night.
Cosmic Girls, operated by Virgin Orbit, has extensive experience in this area – in its past life, it has carried more than 2.5 million passengers on nearly 8,300 flights.
Why don’t we have a vertical launch?
As impressive and inspiring as those familiar Cape Canaveral operations were, Artemis 1’s repeated delays proved one of the major shortcomings.
The so-called horizontal launch that Cosmic Girl will perform is far less dependent on the weather.
It also doesn’t require as much ground infrastructure, so – to put it simply – there is less chance of error than vertical launch.
But that’s not to say that the UK might one day not have vertical launches like the US or Russia, as traditional launch pads come online in Scotland next year.
What is the purpose of the mission?
The first goal seems to be to give it a cool name: Start Me Up.
The team gave everything they had acquired in eight years to get to this stage, and the satellites – which were also built primarily in the UK – Now loaded into LauncherOne at the spaceport.
Including Prototype Track Factory Used to manufacture high-value alloys and semiconductors, and to join satellite constellations that monitor illegal fishing, smuggling, trafficking, piracy and terrorism.
It forms part of the government’s national space strategy, which sets out how the UK will become the first country in Europe to put a satellite into orbit by 2022.
Science Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “With 47,000 jobs in the UK, our growing space industry is a vital part of the economy and plays an important role in fostering investment, growth and prosperity. “
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What does this mean for the UK’s future in space?
There is no doubt that this is a momentous moment for the UK space programme.
The UK has only completed one orbital launch, the Black Arrow in 1971, which actually took off from Australia.
Ian Annett, deputy chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said the launch from Cornwall would be an “iconic moment”.
“This will boost investment, bring new jobs to communities and organisations across the UK and inspire the next generation of space scientists and engineers,” he added.
With the country facing uncertain times, on the ground to say the least, the excitement of the final frontier could prove to be the perfect distraction.