The UK's first ever satellite launch from British soil will take place today (Monday, January 8), with the Prometheus-2 'CubeSat' satellites designed and assembled in Alton, set to be blasted into space from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, Cornwall.
The so-called 'StartMeUp' launch by Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl, a modified Boeing 747 airplane, can be watched live on YouTube through the Virgin Orbit YouTube channel, with the live stream expected to begin at around 9pm on the night of the launch.
Cosmic Girl will take off from the runway at Spaceport Cornwall carrying the LauncherOne rocket, and fly out over the ocean before blasting the rocket into space, delivering its manifest of small satellites into low earth orbit.
The CubeSats, each about the size of a small shoebox and owned by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, will operate in low Earth orbit and provide a test platform for sophisticated imaging and monitoring radio signals, including GPS.
The satellites will allow other companies to study how to collect signals, communicate between satellites, process data while in orbit, understand the space around them, and figure out a satellite's location and the time.
On October 21, 2022, the Prometheus-2 CubeSats arrived at Spaceport Cornwall, having completed final assembly and testing at In-Space Missions' cleanrooms in Alton. They have since undergone further testing an preparation for launch day.
"The whole In-Space team is really buzzing about the StartMeUp launch – this will be a big moment for the UK and we are very proud to be involved. Launch day is going to be momentous, and we can’t wait!" said Doug Liddle, CEO of In-Space Missions.
Chief engineer Ed Stevens added: "This has been an exciting mission to work on for our team. The combination of so many, very capable payloads on each spacecraft has proven to be an enjoyable challenge.
"The teamwork and collaborative approach we’ve shared with our customers has been brilliant and particularly highlighted in the intense period of testing that always precedes taking spacecraft to launch site."
The launch represents a significant milestone in the country's efforts to establish itself as a player in the global space industry, and it has been hailed with widespread celebration and recognition.
The successful launch demonstrates the UK's capability to design, build, and launch satellites, and it will likely lead to further opportunities for the country to collaborate with other space-faring nations and participate in space-based research and exploration.
The achievement is also expected to inspire future generations of scientists, engineers, and other professionals to pursue careers in the UK space industry and contribute to its growth and development.