Virgin Boeing 747 to launch a rocket into space

(CNN) – At the extreme south-west end of England, hanging out into the Atlantic, the remote region of Cornwall rarely feels like the center of the world.

But recently locals felt up close as they watched a very special plane fly low overhead, leaving the runway at tiny Newquay Airport, the UK’s 29th largest airport, and circling the skies above of the coast before touching down. down down

This is not just any plane. It’s also no ordinary Boeing 747, as it appears from the ground. In fact, it is the ‘Queen of the Skies’ repurposed for the space race, making test flights before taking part in the UK’s first orbital space launch next month. And it will take off from Spaceport Cornwall, which shares the airport’s regular 1.7-mile runway.

Marc Andrew, from nearby Newquay, traveled to the spaceport after work to watch the plane land this week.

“It was amazing to see, and it’s going to be quite a story to tell my kid when he’s older,” he told CNN. It’s now set to return for a November release.

Cosmic Girl, as the plane has been named, is the vessel in Virgin Orbit’s bid to launch seven satellites into space.

A former passenger jumbo jet in service with Virgin Atlantic until 2015 has been modified to carry the LauncherOne, a California-made rocket that will go into Earth orbit.

Cosmic Girl, a former Virgin Atlantic 747, will launch from Newquay, UK

Cosmic Girl, a former Virgin Atlantic 747, will launch from Newquay, UK

Virgin Orbit

Next month, Cosmic Girl will take off from Newquay’s cliff-top runway with LauncherOne under its wing, and once the 747 reaches 34,000ft, it will launch the rocket.

Inside will be seven payloads, or satellites, that will begin circling the planet in low Earth orbit.

A test last year saw the rocket, launched from under the 747’s left wing, travel up to 17,000 miles per hour as it hurtled into space.

A test flight for the locals

Using a 747 for a horizontal launch allows for “a wider range of orbits than would be possible with a traditional ground-launched system,” Virgin Orbit wrote in a statement.

The event will be the first orbital space launch for the UK and the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, according to the company. It will also be Europe’s first satellite launch, according to Ian Annett, deputy director general of the UK Space Agency.

LauncherOne completed its first full launch trial in Long Beach, California on 2 October before being flown to the UK last Friday to meet Cosmic Girl, which arrived in Cornwall on 11 October.

Cosmic Girl completed a nearly three-hour test flight around Cornwall and south-west England on October 14, with locals in Cornwall watching it fly low over their gardens.

Rocket LauncherOne has now joined Cosmic Girl at Newquay Spaceport.

Rocket LauncherOne has now joined Cosmic Girl at Newquay Spaceport.

Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit’s Chief Pilot Matthew Stannard, who will fly the 747 for the launch, said: “It’s amazing to bring Cosmic Girl home to the UK. We’re weeks away from the first UK launch at Spaceport Cornwall, so all It’s very real.”

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said: “Seeing the infrastructure in place makes our launch ambitions a reality.”

Are you excited to see more Cosmic Girls? Virgin Orbit plans to bring horizontal launches to Australia, Brazil, Japan, Poland and the Republic of Korea.

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