UKs first ever rocket blasts off as a Boeing 747 helps Britain enter space race

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    History has been made as the United Kingdom has blasted off its first ever rocket into space.

    And it has been done with the help of a giant Boeing 747 airliner.

    Launched by billionaire Richard Branson's company Virgin, the Virgin Orbit has launched successfully into space tonight (January 9).

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    Having already launched four times in the United States, Virgin took a repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft, attached a rocket to it and launched it into space from Cornwall shortly after 10.02pm.

    But that isn't the end of the historic journey, as around an hour into the flight, the plane will release the rocket at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean to the south of Ireland.

    The rocket will then take several small satellites for mixed civil and defense use into orbit, while the plane returns to Cornwall.

    It will be the first commercial satellite launch from Western Europe, Virgin Orbit said, and took place at Spaceport Cornwall – formerly known as Newquay Airport.

    The mission was dubbed Start Me Up, after the song of the same name by legendary rockers Rolling Stones.

    The plane which launched without a hitch is asctually called Cosmic Girl.

    In the past, satellites produced in the the UK had to be sent to spaceports in other countries to make their journey into space.

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    Ian Annett, UK Space Agency deputy chief Ian Annett said that it was a “new year for space in the UK” and that he had “immense excitement” at what was happening.

    The mission is a collaboration between the U.K. Space Agency, the Royal Air Force, Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Council.

    The launch was originally planned for late last year, but it was postponed because of technical and regulatory issues.

    The rocket has actually been sitting in the UK since October, and had a successful pre-launch test last week.

    Annett added: “As a country, we are absolutely fantastic at designing and building satellites: We build more satellites than anywhere else outside of the United States.

    “So it helps to develop an end-to-end capability so that we can do everything.”

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