- Exclusive: Virgin Orbit CEO tells MailOnline spaceport that Cornwall could launch probe to Mars by 2025
- Sir Richard Branson’s company aims to open spaceport early next year
- Horizontal launch site will send the first satellites into space from British soil
- But future manned space flight from Newquay Spaceport ‘currently not planned’
The chief executive of Virgin Orbit said Spaceport Cornwall could be used to send probes to Mars, Venus and the Moon in the next three or four years.
Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company is aiming to open the Newquay-based spaceport by the spring of 2022, when the first satellite will be launched from British soil.
It was expected that the horizontal launch site would be operational by October this year, but due to delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the date was pushed.
Despite the setback, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart told MailOnline that he was optimistic the company’s LauncherOne rocket would deliver payloads to orbit next year, with interplanetary probes likely to follow before the end of the decade.
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Future: Spaceport Cornwall could be used to send probes to Mars, Venus and the Moon within three years, said Virgin Orbit chief executive Dan Hart (center pictured with Boris Johnson).
Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company is aiming to open the Newquay-based spaceport (shown in an artist’s impression) by the spring of 2022, when the first satellite will be launched from UK soil.
Mr Hart was speaking a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps visited Corniche Spaceport to view Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket (pictured).
Virgin Orbit Launcher Specs
Destination: Low Earth Orbit
Speed: 20 times the speed of sound
Payload: Small Satellite (660lb/300kg)
Launch Method: Modified Virgin Atlantic Aircraft
Flights start: 2021
Weight: 57,000lb (25,800kg)
‘Lunar missions and small craft bound for Venus and Mars could be launched’ [from Spaceport Cornwall] Within the next three or four years,’ he said.
For example, we’re not going to launch a Persistence rover (currently being used by NASA to search for signs of ancient life on Mars), but smaller interplanetary probes that detect or carry out landing missions. there’s a possibility.
However, despite discussions that the Cornish site could one day launch fee-paying space tourists on suborbital pleasure flights, the Virgin Orbit chief said that human spaceflight for the facility is ‘currently part of the company’s plans. was not a part.
Still, Mr Hart said he envisioned the spaceport having a Cape Canaveral-like impact on the Cornwall community, letting people know when a launch was coming and being inspired that their friends and neighbors worked on it.
He was speaking a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visited Cornwall Spaceport to see Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, ahead of the G7 summit of world leaders beginning Friday.
“It was great to talk about the changes happening in space and the growth opportunities in the UK,” Mr Hart said.
‘The prime minister was very curious to see our technology – he studied all the data and graphs we showed us and was curious to learn about the partnership between the US and the UK, as well as how satellites can enhance national security Huh.’
Asked whether Mr Johnson himself had mentioned going to space, Mr Hart said: ‘He did not, but I am pretty sure that Grant Shapps would be very interested in becoming an aviator.’
Asked whether Mr Johnson himself had mentioned going to space, Mr Hart said: ‘He did not, but I am pretty sure Grant Shapps would be very interested in being an aviator that he is’
Ready for Launch: LauncherOne is a two-stage, air-to-orbit rocket that can carry small satellite payloads weighing about 660 pounds (300 kg) into low-Earth orbit.
The rocket is carried into the atmosphere on a carrier aircraft called ‘Cosmic Girl’, a Boeing 747-400 (pictured) converted from its former role as a Virgin passenger airliner
Mr Shapps is a keen pilot who frequently flies ministerial business across the country.
Virgin Orbit will use Spaceport Cornwall to launch small satellites into space on LauncherOne, a two-stage, air-to-orbit rocket capable of carrying up to about 660 pounds (300 kg) in low-Earth orbit. Can carry payload.
The rocket is carried into the atmosphere on a carrier aircraft called ‘Cosmic Girl’, a Boeing 747-400 transition from its former role as a passenger airliner in the Virgin Atlantic fleet.
The development of Spaceport Cornwall is expected to create around 150 jobs and allow the UK to compete in the global market for deploying small satellites in Earth orbit – an industry that is expected to be worth £3.9 billion by 2030, Which Branson is hoping to tap.
In January, Virgin Orbit succeeded in putting its first satellites into space, after launching ten payloads under the wing of a 747 launched from California’s Mojave Desert.
Success: Virgin Orbit sent its first satellite into space in January after launching in California
The company announced on Tuesday that the next launch is planned for the end of June and will be live streamed for the first time.
Mr Hart won’t draw on recent speculation that Branson may try to beat Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in space by launching his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane next month.
Unity is operated by Virgin Galactic – a separate company to Orbit – but despite saying he was in the dark about the billionaire mogul’s plans, Mr Hart admitted that Branson was ‘eager to go there’.
A report on Wednesday claimed that the Virgin founder had planned to make a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos, who announced Monday that he and his brother will be in spaceflight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20. Will fly over the shore.
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