Virgin Orbit announces Start Me Up mission from UK

Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
11 October 2022

The countdown to Cornwall is on for Virgin Orbit as it gets ready for its historic launch from the UK, Start Me Up.

The launch provider’s carrier aircraft, ground support equipment and rocket will leave California this week following the first round of now complete wet dress rehearsals. On track for a November launch, Start Me Up is led by a joint mission between the US and UK governments, launched by Virgin Orbit, the UK Space Agency, UK Space Command, the RAF and Spaceport Cornwall.

Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl soars through the sky in the Above The Clouds mission
Virgin Orbit

The launch is named Start Me Up as a tribute to one of the most iconic British rock and roll bands of all time, the Rolling Stones. The hit song debuted on their 1981 album Tattoo You and was later released on the Forty Licks compilation by Virgin Records in 2002. All of Virgin Orbit’s launches have been named to celebrate iconic moments in Virgin’s long musical history.

Start Me Up will be a launch of many firsts: the first orbital launch ever from the UK, the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, and the first commercial launch from Western Europe. Virgin Orbit’s first hardware is already on its way to Spaceport Cornwall, with the ground support equipment and rocket due to follow very soon.

Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said: “What an incredible honor it is for us to be part of something as monumental as bringing Britain into the business of launch. Working with our partners across the UK government, we’re starting up a new capability that will serve the people, the economy, and the security of the UK.”

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, added: “It’s time to Start Us Up! This is a huge moment for us all in Cornwall as the journey to UK space launch has officially begun. The mission name and patch reflect and embrace the incredible partnerships between our two countries and teams.”

Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl on the ground with LauncherOne
Virgin Orbit

What will Start Me Up launch?

Virgin Orbit will send a number of satellites into orbit on this launch. The Start Me Up manifest includes:

  • IOD-3 AMBER (aka IOD-3)

    – Developed by Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies and built by AAC Clyde Space, all based in the UK, IOD-3 Amber is expected to be the first of more than 20 Amber satellites to provide space-based Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) data to users.

  • Prometheus-2

    – Two cubesats owned by the UK Ministry of Defense’s (MOD) Defense Science and technology laboratory Dstl. These satellites, co-funded with Airbus Defence and Space who are designing them jointly with In-Space Missions, will support MOD science and technology activities both in orbit and on the ground through the development of ground systems focused at Dstl’s site near Portsmouth.

  • CIRCE (Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment)

    – CIRCE is part of a joint mission between the UK’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory and the US Naval Research Laboratory.


    – Developed by RHEA Group in the UK, it is the company’s first satellite in its 30-year history. The satellite is being co-funded through the European Space Agency’s Navigation Program and built by Open Cosmos of the United Kingdom. DOVER is a SmallSat that was created as a pathfinder for resilient global navigation satellite systems.

  • ForgeStar-0

    – Developed by Space Forge of Wales, the satellite is a fully returnable and reusable platform to enable in-space manufacturing. This launch will be the first for the company’s ForgeStar platform and will test future returns from space technology.

  • AMAN –

    Oman’s first orbital mission, it is a single earth observation satellite meant to demonstrate the future feasibility of a larger constellation and was developed after a memorandum of understanding among the Sultanate of Oman, Polish Small Satellite manufacturer and operator SatRev, Poland-originated AI data analytics specialists TUATARA, and Omani-based merging technology innovator ETCO. The agreement includes additional planned small satellites, including this, the first in Oman’s history.

  • STORK-6 –

    STORK-6 is the next installment of Polish Small Satellite manufacturer and operator SatRev’s STORK constellation. Virgin Orbit previously launched two spacecraft in this constellation on a previous launch and looks forward to continuing to launch SatRev’s STORK spacecraft in the future.

Visit Virgin Orbit to stay up to date with all the latest developments.