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The Life-Size Replica Rocket that Came To South Ken is Set to Tour 10 UK Locations!

In 2022, in partnership with the UK Space Agency, Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall, Discover South Kensington hosted a 72ft (22m) life-size replica of LauncherOne on Exhibition Road. This summer, the out-of-this-world experience is set to tour 10 locations across the UK!

The UK Space Agency’s Space for Everyone tour will showcase the role of space in improving life on Earth and highlight the diverse and varied career paths open to young people looking to enter this fast-growing industry - demonstrating how space works for them, and how they can work for space.

The tour will feature the 72 feet replica rocket for young people to learn more about how the UK is launching into space, and also include hands-on experiences to engage and fire up the imagination. Trained hosts and industry experts will be on hand to share more about the role of satellites and the varied careers available in the UK space sector.

Aside from inspiring the next generation, the tour is about highlighting the opportunities within the space industry for people of all backgrounds; championing inclusivity and the need for innovation. The roadshow is free and open to all ages, and the hope is that it will ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering, and maths in everyone who attends.

Thousands of people visited the replica rocket in South Ken, led by the UK Space Agency, as part of the countdown to the Virgin Orbit launch. Families took part in a range of exciting, free space-themed activities and hands-on exhibitions, including a Virtual Reality experience offering the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be at Mission Control, the chance to try on a real astronaut suit and handle a real meteorite.

Those that visited said the day was 'amazing and breathtaking- in a tough economic environment, this event was very hopeful', with others claiming that the display was simply 'unbelievable'. 

Science Minister Nusrat Ghani, who officially opened the event, said:

'We want to harness this incredible opportunity to inspire more young people to consider careers in science, engineering and space. By establishing the UK as the leading European base to launch small satellites, we can build on our existing strengths in space manufacturing to create new jobs, grow the economy and attract significant investment into our growing space sector.'

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said:

'Our work to establish launch capabilities in the UK is already bringing new growth through investment and jobs into local communities and inspiring a new generation of space professionals whether in science, engineering, law and other disciplines. A strong space sector depends on attracting future talent, so it was fantastic to see so many young people inspired by our full-size replica rocket in the centre of London and the activities this weekend. I hope we have ignited a passion for future space careers in many of them and made people aware of how space contributes to global sustainability and our prosperity as a nation.'

In 2022, the activities were supported by Virgin Orbit, Spaceport Cornwall, the Science Museum, Imperial College London, Natural History Museum and the Royal College of Music.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said:

'I’m proud to stand alongside this distinguished group as we strive to bring a historic launch into space from UK soil – the first in many more milestones to come as the United Kingdom enters a new era as a leading space economy, opening up opportunities for the generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers we see here today.

This launch is being enabled through the dedication and hard work of so many, and we at Virgin Orbit are so very honored to be playing a part in it.'

Squadron Leader Mathew Stannard, Chief Pilot, Virgin Orbit, who pilotted the plane that was set to launch the rocket, said:

'I’m really excited to be here. Normally rockets are a business – we build it, we ship it, we get it ready, and we launch it. So, to actually have a model one here to show people is really cool. Most people come up to you and ask, ‘Is this something you’re doing in five years' time?’, but no, we’re weeks away from launch now.'

Spaceport Cornwall is one of seven spaceport sites being developed across the UK which will help unleash a wave of innovation and create hundreds of new jobs across the country. All UK launches are subject to receiving a license from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Group photo in front of the replica rocket

(UK Space Agency Deputy CEO Ian Annett, Squadron Leader Mathew Stannard Chief Pilot Virgin Orbit, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart, Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, Science Minister Nusrat Ghani, UK Space Agency Director of Commercial Spaceflight Matt Archer, Felicity Buchan MP for Kensington, Dr Julia Knights Deputy Director of the Science Museum and Councillor Emma Will, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Credit: UK Space Agency)

Science Minister Nusrat Ghani and UK Space Agency Deputy CEO Ian Annett

(Science Minister Nusrat Ghani and UK Space Agency Deputy CEO Ian Annett. Credit: UK Space Agency)