Virgin Orbit Prepares First UK-based Orbital Launch

Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl.
Photo Credit: Virgin Orbit

LONDON – Follow our live coverage as Virgin Orbit prepares the first UK-based orbital launch from Newquay using “Cosmic Girl”!

Dubbed the “Start Me Up Mission”, the launch window will open up tonight and represent a new era in collaboration with Virgin Orbit, the UK Space Agency, Cornwall Council, and the Royal Air Force.

For Virgin Orbit, this has been the culmination of several months and years of hard work, with Spaceport Cornwall receiving the first-ever spaceport license from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) back in November.

Virgin Orbit CEO: Historic Endeavour…

Photo Credit: Virgin Orbit

On January 6, Dan Hart, the CEO of the space subsidiary, said the following about the upcoming launch:

“After ensuring that every technical aspect is sound and every regulation and code has been satisfied, it is gratifying to see this historic endeavor on the verge of coming to fruition.”

“This launch represents the opening of a new era in the British space industry and new partnerships across industry, government, and allies.”

“Space is already responsible for tens of thousands of jobs across the UK, the global industry is growing quickly, and so is the potential.”

“And this launch is demonstrating that with the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne system, an airport can become a spaceport that sends humankind’s innovations on their journey.”

Cosmic Girl: Virgin Orbit’s Highlight of the Launch…

Photo Credit: Virgin Orbit

N744VG, also known as Cosmic Girl, will be the Boeing 747-400 that will transport the LauncherOne during tonight’s launch.

The aircraft started out life with Virgin Atlantic as G-VWOW back in October 2001 before being transported to Virgin Galactic back in November 2015.

Two years after that, N744VG was then sent over to the current subsidiary. N744VG has been in Newquay (Spaceport Cornwall) since October 11 last year, preparing for this launch.

You can follow our live coverage, courtesy of, below!

LIVE: Virgin Orbit’s First Launch from Spaceport Cornwall…

Hello, and welcome to our live coverage! You will see updates from around 2100 UK time, so keep an eye out for developments!

UPDATE #1 @ 1943 UK time – Based on data from, here is the last flight that N744VG did around the Newquay area!

UPDATE #2 @ 1946 UK time – So many firsts to be achieved from tonight’s launch with Virgin Orbit:

  • First orbital launch from the UK.
  • First commercial launch from Western Europe.
  • First international launch for Virgin Orbit.
  • First satellite for Oman.
  • First satellite built in Wales.

UPDATE #3 @ 2038 UK time – Virgin Orbit’s coverage begins in 20 minutes. We will be following developments as it goes on.

UPDATE #4 @ 2107 UK time – N744VG is set to depart between 9:45 pm and 10:15 pm UK time, as per Sky News.

UPDATE #5 @ 2116 UK time – Virgin Orbit’s live stream is now live and is showing an expected takeoff time of 2201 GMT.

UPDATE #6 @ 2120 UK time – Virgin Orbit confirms that they are “GO” for launch with N744VG.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

UPDATE #7 @ 2127 UK time – Engineering crews seen preparing Cosmic Girl in the last stages before its upcoming departure in around 30 minutes’ time.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

UPDATE #8 @ 2129 UK time – And here is Cosmic Girl, seen in full view on its Spaceport Cornwall stand in Newquay.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

UPDATE #9 @ 2146 UK time – Another look at Cosmic Girl as she awaits her momentous departure for one in the history books.

UPDATE #10 @ 2148 UK time – Mission Control begins the initiation of engine start-up as crews more equipment away from the aircraft.

Credit: Virgin Orbit.

UPDATE #11 @ 2151 UK time – The planned flight path for Cosmic Girl.

UPDATE #12 @ 2153 UK time – The engine start-up process continues onboard Cosmic Girl.

UPDATE #13 @ 2156 UK time – Cosmic Girl begins her taxi to the runway.

UPDATE #14 @ 2201 UK time – Cosmic Girl is now airborne from Cornwall Spaceport and will commence the next stages of the satellite launch.

Data provided by

UPDATE #15 @ 2204 UK time – With Cosmic Girl now in the air, she will head West to the designated launching area off the coast of Ireland.

This is a developing story.

UPDATE #16 @ 2212 UK time – There will be less than an hour until the expected drop time of the LauncherOne system.

UPDATE #17 @ 2223 UK time – EI783 is the closest flight to Cosmic Girl at the time of writing. They probably won’t see the rocket launch.

UPDATE #18 @ 2248 UK time – Cosmic Girl is beginning her path of the “racetrack”, with under 20 minutes to go until rocket drop.

UPDATE #19 @ 2252 UK time – Cool graphic from Virgin Orbit highlighting further the turn it has made in preparation for the launch of the rocket.

UPDATE #20 @ 2255 UK time – It looks like the rocket will be dropped by 2309 UK time.

UPDATE #21 @ 2305 UK time – First lap of the “racetrack” nearly completed, less than three minutes to go until planned drop.

UPDATE #22 @ 2308 UK time – Virgin Orbit confirms the beginning of the “cold pass”.

UPDATE #23 @ 2310 UK time – Successful ignition of the rocket engine.

UPDATE #24 @ 2312 UK time – Successful separation of the rocket from Cosmic Girl!

UPDATE #25 @ 2314 UK time – Now that the rocket has been separated from the aircraft, Cosmic Girl exits the racetrack and heads home.

UPDATE #26 @ 2335 UK time – Cosmic Girl has begun her descent back into Cornwall Spaceport.

UPDATE #27 @ 2346 UK time – Cosmic Girl is in the final stages of preparation before its arrival back into Cornwall Spaceport.

UPDATE #28 @ 2349 UK time – Cosmic Girl is on final approach into Cornwall Spaceport.

UPDATE #29 @ 2354 UK time – Cosmic Girl has landed safely back into Cornwall Spaceport, concluding our coverage of this historic event!

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