Britain is set to pull ahead in the space race as it launches its first orbital rocket on later on this evening (January 9), an industry leader has predicted.
The Cosmic Girl will be the first commercial space launch in western Europe when it blasts off from Spaceport in Cornwall.
Expert Paul Collins revealed it will make us an instant world leader – sparking a cosmic explosion of jobs in the industry.
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He said: "For us in the UK to now have an end-to-end capability is really the first end-to-end capability in the whole of Europe."
The Virgin Orbit spaceship, a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, will climb to 35,000ft.
It will then deploy the LauncherOne rocket to blast nine satellites into space.
They will include ones owned by the Ministry of Defence and the US government.
Paul added: "It’s not as large as many other rockets – it’s still designed to launch small sats into a low Earth orbit, but they do have plans to expand that. This is just the first stage, but I think it’s very exciting."
Previously, UK-produced satellites have needed to be sent to foreign spaceports to make their journey into space.
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Ian Annett, deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: “We are entering a new era for space in the UK with the first ever satellite launch from UK soil and from Europe.
"This is a significant landmark for the nation, the UK Space Agency and for all those who have worked so hard over many years to make our ambitions to create a commercial space launch capability a reality.
"The development of new orbital launch capabilities is already generating growth, catalysing investment and creating jobs in Cornwall and other communities across the United Kingdom."
The Start Me Up mission will livestream on Virgin Orbit’s YouTube channel from 9pm.
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