Virgin Orbit confirms Cornwall launch
March 11, 2022
By Chris Forrester
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit rocket plane project has signed a contract with European in-space manufacturing tech start-up Space Forge to launch a Welsh-built small satellite from Cornwall.
The satellite will be launched as part of a broader joint UK-US mission to open the country’s first domestic space port in summer 2022 out of Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, Cornwall.
“With shared values of democratising space and pioneering responsive and responsible launch technologies, the synergy between Virgin Orbit and Cardiff-based Space Forge’s ethos makes this the ideal marriage for initial launch from the UK. This, coupled with Spaceport Cornwall’s ambitions to become a world leader in responsible launch will offer a real-world example of a global shift in environmental space practice – from sustainable on the ground operations, to horizontal, lower impact, launch technologies, to on-orbit services minimising the environmental impacts of manufacturing,” said a joint statement.
“Space Forge recently announced that, along with partners, it is developing a world-first service incorporating both launch and return of a new small class of vehicle – the ForgeStar – that can be deployed from conventional launchers to provide rapid, reliable and reusable in-space infrastructure. This inaugural mission will see Space Forge’s ForgeStar-0 platform launched for the first time and will test future return from space technology,” added the statement. “Aiming to unlock the next steps on the path to market expansion, dedicated in-space manufacturing, coupled with proof of reliable return, will allow Space Forge to leverage the benefits of the space environment, namely: microgravity, vacuum, and temperature, to create products impossible to manufacture on Earth. Their focus is on producing materials and products which offer game-changing levels of performance and efficiency in power hungry infrastructure and systems – reducing the environmental impact of production on earth to unlock new value and innovation. Research suggests that manufacturing certain materials in space could reduce CO2 emissions by 75 per cent – the equivalent to removing all petrol cars from the UK.”
“We at Virgin Orbit are delighted to have been chosen to move Space Forge forward in their space journey as we look forward to our inaugural Cornwall launch. Space Forge is joining the growing community of space innovators advancing space technologies for the betterment of our world,” said Virgin Orbit CEO, Dan Hart. “Their commitment to sustainability builds a foundation for future growth in the industry that we at Virgin Orbit are proud to be part of.”
Joshua Western, CEO, Space Forge, commented: “We’re thrilled to be making UK history with our first launch. We will demonstrate the use of space for good through in-space manufacturing and reliable return and it’s brilliant that both Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall share our ambitions. This is the start of a great collaboration and we are so excited to see where it goes.”