RAF Pilot, Mathew Stannard, Completes Virgin Orbit satellite launch

18th Feb 2022
RAF Pilot, Mathew Stannard, Completes Virgin Orbit satellite launch

A recent Virgin Orbit satellite launch from Mojave Airport in California has successfully sent several satellites, including one manufactured in Scotland, into Low Earth Orbit. The launch was carried out by Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl launcher, which was developed from a modified Boeing 747-400 jet. The flight crew included Chief Pilot, Eric Bippert, and RAF Pilot, Lieutenant Mathew Stannard, who captured parts of the unforgettable experience on camera. The launch deployed multiple satellites, one of which was manufactured by Glasgow-based company Spire Global.

RAF Pilot Virgin Orbit Launch Marks Important Milestone for UK Space Plans

The involvement of a British RAF pilot in the Virgin Orbit satellite launch is a crucial milestone for the UK space industry’s collaboration with the US-based company. A Virgin Orbit satellite launch is also due to take place from Spaceport Cornwall in the UK in summer 2022, depending on licensing agreements. This upcoming launch is supported by the UK Space Agency and will be the first satellite launch from UK soil. This launch will also be piloted by Lieutenant Mathew Stannard.

Spaceport Development Taking Place Across UK

The planned Virgin Orbit satellite launch from Spaceport Cornwall marks a rapid expansion in the UK space industry. Although the first satellite launch is due to take place from Cornwall, six more space centres are under development in the UK. These sites include Shetland Spaceport, Sutherland Spaceport, Prestwick Spaceport, and Argyll Spaceport. These launch sites will support the burgeoning satellite manufacturing industry in the UK and are part of the government’s National Space Strategy. The Virgin Orbit satellite launch in California and the collaboration with the RAF are important steps in the right direction.

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