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The first orbital space launch from British soil will take off on Monday

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, in front of Cosmic Girl.
Hugh Hastings
Getty Images
Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, in front of Cosmic Girl.

The first orbital space launch from British soil is scheduled to take off on Monday.

A modified Boeing 747 airplane known as Cosmic Girl will take off from Spaceport Cornwall in England. Once it reaches 35,000 feet in the air, the converted aircraft will deploy a rocket, called LauncherOne, into space.

The LauncherOne rocket will deliver several payloads into orbit, including Wales' first satellite and the first ever satellite launched by Oman to observe Earth.

In addition to being the first orbital launch ever from the United Kingdom, it is also the first commercial launch from Western Europe.

"We cannot wait to see the rocket take to the skies soon, carrying Earth-benefitting satellite technology into Low Earth Orbit," Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said in an Oct. 15 press release.

The converted aircraft, which will be operated by billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit, was originally scheduled to take off in December before it failed to meet all of its license terms in time.And while the historic "Start Me Up" mission — named after the Rolling Stones song — is scheduled to take off on Monday, there are several backup dates this month, just in case.

It's taking off as other parts of Europe are trying to get in on the spaceport action. There are new launch facilities in Scotland, Scandinavia and Germany.

"Spaceport Cornwall is already inspiring our young people to become the next generation of scientists and innovators — we look forward to the ground breaking research and exploration that will be undertaken in the years to come, which will help us to better understand and address the needs of our planet and in particular climate change," Linda Taylor, who leads the Cornwall Council, said in the same press release.

Virgin Orbit is planning to livestream the anticipated launch on Monday, and tickets to watch the launch from Spaceport Cornwall quickly sold out.People residing in the U.K. and Ireland should be able to spot the aircraft within 60 seconds of takeoff, while those in France, Portugal and Spain should be able to spot it quickly thereafter, according to SkyNews.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.