On the 9th January 2023 the United Kingdom added another entry into the history books as Virgin Orbit operating at Spaceport Cornwall attempted their first mission Start Me Up, by launching the first rocket from UK soil marking a momentous occasion.
This wasn’t a typical rocket launch where the rocket propels itself from the ground but instead a horizontal launch. A modified Boeing 747 aptly named Cosmic Girl took off from Spaceport Cornwall with the rocket LauncherOne to resounding applause and celebrations, once Cosmic Girl reached a height of 32,000ft the rocket was released and began its ascent into orbit to deploy the payload.
Unfortunately during the second stage as the rocket was on its way there was an anomaly that prevented the rocket from reaching orbit and the payload was lost. This reinforces that space is hard, and there’s no denying that.
Cornwall and Devon aren’t the first places that come to mind when thinking about growing tech hubs, but currently tech in the South West is propelling ever onwards at a unyielding pace. Cornwall is becoming a forefront for many different sectors ranging from mining, engineering, manufacturing, software development and now additionally benefits from services that contribute to the aerospace and space sector.
As these sectors grow they continue to expand their education and outreach programmes with local schools, colleges and universities, and now with Spaceport Cornwall operational the possibilities are reaching new heights whilst supporting young people and those looking into for new experiences.
This first attempt at launching a rocket from UK soil has no doubt inspired a whole new generation, and with a developing space industry on their doorstep there’s certainty there’ll be young people throughout the South West and country who will now be inspired by what’s occurred at Spaceport Cornwall to pursue STEM related careers in their future.
Looking forward to the next 10 years I believe many of us can see the South West growing to become a vast tech hub within the UK, building upon an already secure foundation of great quality of life (along with amazing pasties), great digital connectivity, and a thriving tech industry achieving real and positive changes.