RAF pilot Matthew Stannard will be at the controls of a jumbo jet Today when it launches a rocket to space from out over the Pacific Ocean.
The airman is currently seconded to Sir Richard Branson’s satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, which will be attempting to loft seven spacecraft.
“Stanny”, as he’s known, is more accustomed to firing missiles from Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets and Unleashing a 21m (70ft) space booster will be a new experience.
The UK Ministry of Defence anticipates using Virgin Orbit to launch military satellites in the future, and is building a pool of experience in advance of this happening.
Today’s mission will be the third overall for British entrepreneur Sir Richard’s Long Beach, California-based company.
Virgin Orbit wants to run six space missions this year, with two of these planned to operate out of Newquay Airport in Cornwall.