Britain is a world leader in many fields. Devising alternative routes to work thanks to a collapsing transport system and devoting more column inches to a Royal’s autobiography than the collapse of its health system, to name but two. 

In some respects, though, we are lagging behind. Despite an attempt in Cornwall on Monday night, we are yet to send a rocket into orbit. 

Attention now turns to Scotland, where some important progress could yet be made.

READ MORE: UK rocket launch fails as 'technical' issue means orbit missed 

Has Britain genuinely never had a rocket in orbit?

Satellites made in Britain have been launched from other countries, and astronauts born in the country have gone to the cosmos with NASA, the USSR and the European Space Agency. 

Monday, however, was supposed to be the first time a rocket was successfully launched into orbit from Britain. 

The Herald: Virgin Orbit's flight failed to go to planVirgin Orbit's flight failed to go to plan (Image: PA Images)

What was the plan?

Virgin Orbit had scheduled a launch from its spaceport in Newquay, Cornwall. At 8:36pm on Monday, they tweeted: “Are you ready to make history together?”

Did they make history?


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What went wrong?

The modified plane known as ‘Cosmic Girl’ took off from Newquay shortly after 10pm, releasing the LauncherOne rocket around 11pm. 

The rocket left earth’s atmosphere at 17,200mph, and at 11:11pm Virgin Orbit triumphantly tweeted: “#LauncherOne is now officially in space!”.

35 minutes later, they tweeted: “We appear to have an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit. We are evaluating the information.”

That’s a bit less triumphant. 

It’s hard to imagine a Hollywood blockbuster in which Tom Hanks declares ‘Cornwall, we have an anomaly’. 

Where does Scotland come in?

Two spaceports are currently being built in Scotland, with the Scottish Government expecting orbital launches later this year. 

The Scotland International Space Advisory Committee has been formed, which consists of Scots from around the world with connections to the space industry. 

“Space brings great opportunity for Scotland in terms of the economic development it delivers, its relevance for the climate change agenda and the power it has to inspire the next generation”, said Business minister Ivan McKee. 

SISAC chair Joanna Peters said: “It is the intent of the SISAC to help fuel and ignite a national passion toward a space-based economy by capitalising on its strong heritage of exploration, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The Herald: Orbex plans to launch commercial satellites from Sutherland;s A'Mhoine peninsulaOrbex plans to launch commercial satellites from Sutherland;s A'Mhoine peninsula (Image: Orbex)

READ MORE: Scottish spaceports are only months away from lift off

Where are these spaceports?

The SaxaVord spaceport on the Shetland Islands will be used by a number of firms, including Edinburgh-based space rocket company Skyrora. 

Aerospace company Orbex, which is based in Forres, plans to launch commercial satellites in its Prime rocket from Sutherland’s A’Mhoine peninsula.

Don’t we have enough rockets in Scotland?