gentlemen. Hart said the payloads on Virgin Orbit rockets, which include commercial satellites as well as equipment sponsored by the U.K. Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, are an “excellent model” of the combined funding sources needed to maintain a full-service space programme.
Now that British authorities have completed the regulatory and other work required for a space launch in densely populated Western Europe, the process should be smoother next time around.
“We have to work very closely with Portugal, Spain and Ireland,” because the Virgin aircraft “will be flying over airspace they control,” said Ian Annett, deputy chief executive of the UK Space Agency, which is financing the launch. Say. Commercial airlines will have to reroute flights to avoid it, he said.
Making such arrangements has caused delays. “Obviously the first launch is an expensive undertaking,” Mr. Hart said. Virgin Orbit has had to keep its launch team in the UK since October, making the job far more expensive than expected, although the company said it was difficult to estimate exactly.
Virgin Orbit typically charges about $12 million for a launch, but fees can vary.
Britain already has a sizable satellite industry and has been one of the leaders in the design and manufacture of shoebox-sized, relatively cheap equipment that is becoming increasingly important for communications, surveillance and other uses.
The government expects the UK to gain an even greater advantage if it has the ability to put these satellites into orbit. Through a small amount of funding, the government is encouraging receptive local authorities, such as those in Cornwall and Scotland, to develop sites suitable for vertical rocket launches or for jumbo jets to be used as launch platforms.
Mrs. RHEA Group’s Jones said the prospect of having a launch site in the UK prompted her employer, a private Belgian company, to build the facility at Harwell, near Oxford, where there are many space companies.