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virgin orbit

Ships urged to stay out of area off Cork and Kerry coast tonight due to possible rocket debris

Several satellites are set to be blasted into space from Cornwall at 10pm.

SAILORS AND FISHERMEN have been warned to stay out of an area of water to the south-west of Cork and Kerry for several hours tonight, in case rocket debris falls from the sky.

An alert issued by the Department of Transport relates to a mid-air launch of a satellite carrying a rocket by  Virgin Orbit from the UK’s Spaceport Cornwall at approximately 10pm tonight.

If the launch goes to plan, there will be no risk to seafarers in the area, “however, there is a low probability for the vehicle to produce dangerous debris if a mishap were to occur,” the Department stated.

The warning will remain in place until shortly after 1am in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Mariners are advised to report any debris or pollution sightings.

dept The area of ocean that may be at risk of falling debris. Department of Transport Department of Transport

Final preparations are underway for the ‘Start Me Up’ Mission, named in tribute to The Rolling Stones’ 1981 hit.

The mission involves a repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft and Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket.

The 747, dubbed Cosmic Girl, will take off horizontally from the new facility while carrying the rocket.

Around an hour into the flight the rocket will be released at 35,000ft over the debris-risk area.

The plane will then return to the spaceport while the rocket will ignite its engine and take multiple small satellites, with a variety of civil and defence applications, into orbit.

They will be the first satellites launched into space from Europe.

Speaking yesterday, Ian Annett, deputy chief executive at the UK Space Agency, described his “immense excitement”.

“Who would not be excited by the fact this is the first time that it has been done in Europe? That’s because it’s hard,” he said.

“There is a point where the training takes over and you fall into that rhythm of the teams knowing what they need to do.

“They know when they need to make the decisions they need to make.

“I would say the real achievements here are not the successes that you can necessarily see but all of the challenges that collectively as a team people have overcome.

“The culmination of all of that is putting these exciting missions into space. It’s the things at the pointy end of the rocket that really matter.”

With reporting by PA

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