Virgin Orbit to launch first Welsh satellite from Spaceport Cornwall

Virgin Orbit's June 2021 space mission - Tubular Bells: Part One
Virgin Orbit
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
9 March 2022

Virgin Orbit has announced an agreement with tech start-up Space Forge to launch the first satellite developed in Wales into space in summer 2022.

In a historic moment for UK space, the satellite will be launched as part of a joint UK-US mission to open the country’s first domestic spaceport in summer 2022 from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay.

Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit

Recently, Space Forge announced it is developing a world-first service with its partners, which will incorporate both the 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 the new return from space technology.

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 that are impossible to manufacture on Earth.

Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl in flight
Virgin Orbit

Space Forge is focused on producing materials and products that 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 as much as 75% – the equivalent of removing all petrol cars from the UK.

“We’re thrilled to be making UK history with our first launch,” Joshua Western, CEO of Space Forge said. “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.”

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

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said: “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. Their commitment to sustainability builds a foundation for future growth in the industry that we at Virgin Orbit are proud to be part of.”

Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall added: “Launch from Cornwall is the chance to set the bar for the global space industry. Leading with companies like Space Forge, who are innovating in the responsible use of space, is key to this next iteration of space exploration.

Cosmic Girl flying above the clouds
Virgin Orbit

“It’s amazing to see our partners Virgin Orbit select customers who share our ambitions in this area and we can’t wait to show the world how this can be done.”

Visit Virgin Orbit to find out more.