Virgin Orbit's "Start Me Up" mission was the first-ever orbital mission to lift off from the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, things didn't go to plan when its 70-foot-long (21 meters) LauncherOne rocket suffered an anomaly, preventing it from making orbit.
The company's carrier plane Cosmic Girl lifted off from Spaceport Cornwall on schedule on Monday (Jan. 9) at 5:02 p.m. EST (2202 GMT). The lift-off was celebrated by thousands of onlookers who had descended on Spaceport Cornwall to be part of the historic launch. Cornwall Airport Newquay was chosen as the location for Spaceport Cornwall as it has one of the longest runways of a regional airport in the U.K. and direct access to a flight path over the sea.
"Start Me Up" was to be a mission of many firsts: The first orbital launch from the U.K., the first commercial launch from western Europe, the first Omani satellite and the first satellite built in Wales. Here we take a look at some of the best photos from the launch event at Spaceport Cornwall.
In this photo is the 72-ft (22 meter) replica LauncherOne rocket that took pride of place in the Spaceport Cornwall event zone for the "Start Me Up" mission launch.
LauncherOne was carried to an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) by the modified Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft, Cosmic Girl, before being released. A replica of LauncherOne was situated in the main event zone of the "Start Me Up" launch event.
The launch was livestreamed on Virgin Orbit's YouTube channel and on a big screen for onlookers at the Spaceport Cornwall live event.
Cosmic Girl waited patiently for liftoff about 3,940 ft (1200 m) away from onlookers at Spaceport Cornwall.
The "Start Me Up" mission was to be the first orbital launch from the U.K. and the first commercial launch from Western Europe.
This was Virgin Orbit's first launch outside of the United States and marked the beginning of a new era of spaceflight for the U.K.
During the historic launch, the LauncherOne rocket suffered an anomaly, preventing it from making orbit. Virgin Orbit and the U.K. Space Agency announced an investigation following the failed launch.
Cosmic Girl, Virgin Orbit's modified Boeing 747-400 photographed at Spaceport Cornwall on Nov. 08, 2022 ahead of the first launch.
A view of Cosmic Girl with the LauncherOne rocket under its left wing as final preparations are made at Spaceport Cornwall for the launch on Monday (Jan. 9).
Cosmic Girl is a modified Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft used by Virgin Orbit. The company's "Start Me Up" mission took off from Spaceport Cornwall on Jan. 9, 2023.
Onlookers watch as Cosmic Girl takes off from Spaceport Cornwall on the historic first launch from the U.K. Tickets to view the event live, sold out faster than the popular UK music festival Glastonbury!
Onlookers applaud the take-off of Cosmic Girl on Jan. 9, 2023. The mission was named "Start Me Up" after the Rolling Stones hit and the song played on large speakers around Spaceport Cornwall during take-off.