HRH Princess Anne visits Spaceport Cornwall ahead of UK's first ever satellite launch

Princess Anne donned a high vis jacket, and later a lab coat when visiting the site in Newquay Credit: Virgin Orbit

HRH Princess Anne has paid a visit to the Goonhilly Earth Station and Spaceport Cornwall, ahead of the UK's first ever satellite launch.

The Princess Royal travelled to Newquay to meet the team behind Virgin Orbit's project on Friday (21 October).

The daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne was shown the site and boarded the specially adapted plane dubbed Cosmic Girl. It will release a rocket, LauncherOne, at 35,000 feet.

This rocket will then release several satellites, on a mission called Start Me Up.

Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, said she was "thrilled" to welcome Princess Anne to the site.

The team behind Virgin Orbit's Launch Me Up mission, with the LauncherOne rocket visible in the hanger behind Credit: Virgin Orbit

Melissa added: "She was extremely enthusiastic about the next era of UK space exploration and how this will benefit Cornwall and the rest of the UK.

"It was an honour to showcase how much work has been done to place our county at the forefront of this industry and lead the way in the use of Space for Good."

During the visit, the princess met members of the team involved in the project and donned a white laboratory coat.

Princess Anne meets some of the scientists and engineers working on the project ahead of the launch Credit: Virgin Orbit

King Charles III's only sister also visited the Goonhilly Earth Station earlier in the day, which is the world's only commercial deep space ground station.

Princess Anne was at the Lizard peninsula site to find out about its recent revival and took a trip up the company's 32m deep space antenna, which was upgraded in 2021.

As part of the visit, The Princess Royal also learned about how Goonhilly will be supporting NASA's pivotal Artemis-I Mission next month, which will mark the beginning of a new phase of lunar exploration.

Princess Anne was at Goonhilly to learn about the site's upcoming role in two space missions next month Credit: Goonhilly Earth Station

The Cornish site will be used to track an uncrewed Orion capsule that will travel around the moon and back, to test systems ahead of a crewed flight in 2024. It will also be used to communicate with a number of small satellites that are being launched as part of the mission.

As well as this, Princess Anne met staff at Goonhilly who will be helping with Virgin Orbit's Start Me Up mission.

Members of staff at Goonhilly will be partnering with Virgin Orbit on the companies upcoming mission Credit: Goonhilly Earth Station

A team from the site will be used to track the Cosmic Girl plane as the crew launch the rocket from a specially-designed portable tracking station at Spaceport Cornwall.

Ian Jones, CEO of Goonhilly Earth Station said: “Welcoming The Princess Royal in our 60th year offered an opportunity to shine a light on the exciting space activity happening here in Cornwall and the cluster development we have been able to stimulate.

"We want to help define a new era of UK space exploration and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers from home soil.”

It will be the first ever orbital launch from the United Kingdom, the first international launch for Virgin Orbit, and the first commercial launch from Western Europe.