Space launch: where is Spaceport in Cornwall? Can I attend Newquay launch and how to watch Cosmic Girl rocket

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The airport in Newquay was chosen as the location for the ‘iconic moment’ in British history as it’s home to the second longest runway in the UK

The first UK space launch has taken take place tonight (9 January) as part of Virgin Orbit’s Start Me Up Mission.

Named after the Rolling Stones 1981 hit single, the mission sees a repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft nicknamed “Cosmic Girl” launch satellites into space from Europe for the first time.

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Thousands of spectators travelled to Spaceport in Cornwall to witness the launch which has been described as an “iconic moment” in British history. The airport in Newquay was chosen as the location for the historic launch as it has the second longest runway in the UK

So, what is Spaceport, where is it in Cornwalll and can you attend the launch? Here’s everything you need to know.

Where is Spaceport in Cornwall?

Spaceport is located at Cornwall Airport in Newquay. The UK’s first horizontal launch spaceport, it was chosen for the historic launch by the UK Space Agency as the site was home to the second longest runway in the UK.

Thousands of spectators are expected to travel to Spaceport in Cornwall to witness the launch (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)Thousands of spectators are expected to travel to Spaceport in Cornwall to witness the launch (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)
Thousands of spectators are expected to travel to Spaceport in Cornwall to witness the launch (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg) | NationalWorld/Kim Mogg

There will be no vertical space launch at Spaceport, instead the repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft nicknamed “Cosmic Girl” will take off from the runway carrying a rocket named LauncherOne, which will then detach and travel into the Earth’s low orbit where it will release the satellites.

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Speaking about the launch, Ian Annett, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: “Seeing Virgin Orbit’s aircraft take off is an exciting reminder that we are close to the first launch from UK soil and first launch of a satellite from Europe.” He added: “This will be an iconic moment in the history of U.K. space endeavours”.

What time did the space launch happen?

The space launch is due to take place at Spaceport in Newquay today (9 January), with Virgin Orbit confirming lift-off was expected at around 10.00 pm. The launch was originally supposed to take place before the New Year, but due to weather and regulatory issues was pushed back until January.

Speaking about the launch to Virgin, Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall described it as “breaking new ground” she said: “This is a phenomenal moment with incredible international collaboration. Virgin Orbit, the UK Space Agency and all of our partners are breaking new ground to transform access to space across the world from right here in Cornwall. My team at Spaceport Cornwall have worked so hard to get this far and we wish everyone the best of luck as the launch window opens, we are ready.”

Crowds gathered at Spaceport to witness the historic event. They began to cheer and dance as the plane prepared to take-off near 10pm, with commentators proclaiming “God speed Cosmic Girl” as the plane lifted into the atmosphere

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How can you watch the space launch?

For anyone unable to get tickets for the launch, it will be available to watch online.

Virgin Orbit will be livestreaming the event on their YouTube channel, with viewers being able to tune into the action from 9.15 pm GMT.

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