Spaceport Cornwall set for new launch plans

Spaceport Cornwall and launch partner Virgin Orbit will launch the Amber-1 satellite later this year, a collaboration between the Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies.

Spaceport Cornwall
LR: Sir Richard Branson, Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, Michael Curtis Rouse, Head of Access to Space, The Satellite Applications Catapult and Dan Hart, CEO Virgin Orbit

This agreement to launch the newest satellite in the Catapults In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) programfunded by Innovate UK and the UK Space Agency, is expected to mark the first-ever orbital launch from a UK spaceport.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket will launch Amber-1 into space, with the aim of demonstrating how launching from the UK can benefit Britain’s growing space sector and enable organizations to rapidly orbit new technologies. Earth, with a complete end-to-end capability coordinated from British soil.

Amber-1, built by CubeSat manufacturer AAC Clyde Space in Scotland, is expected to be the first of more than 20 planned ‘Amber’ satellites to provide Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) data to users.

Using proprietary technology, the system will geolocate and demodulate radio frequency (RF) data from ships around the world. Horizon Technologies data will be used by governments to provide information on detecting and preventing illegal fishing, smuggling, human trafficking, piracy and terrorism.

Information collected through the program will be provided to the UK’s Joint Maritime Security Center (JMSC). Horizon Technologies CEO John Beckner said the satellite will “revolutionize” maritime RF sensing from space using single CubeSats instead of expensive clusters.

“We believe that tracking shipping from space is vital to keep the seas safe and Amber-1 is a key technology that will help with this,” said Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit CEO.

“This key technology and Virgin Orbit’s partnership with the Catapult are the latest signs of growth we’re seeing in the UK’s aerospace economy. This is bolstered by our planned capability to launch into orbit directly from the UK.”

Head of Spaceport Cornwall Melissa Thorpe added that the launch will be an integral part of UK maritime safety, benefiting the general public and the marine ecosystem.

“This is a larger scale representation of what we are trying to achieve through Kernow Sat-1, monitoring the health of the ocean around the Cornish coast. This mission will take the use of space for good by showing how more Earth observation can help humanity and our environment.”

Abhishek Maheswari
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