Cork fishermen not happy with Virgin Orbit warning off South West coast

Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said it is “not as simple as it sounds” for fishermen to avoid the approximately 1000sq km hazard area.
Cork fishermen not happy with Virgin Orbit warning off South West coast

“You wouldn’t do this over a city or a town. You wouldn’t ask a farmer to get out of his field or move his cows,” he said.

Cork fishermen have expressed their dissatisfaction with a marine warning issued by the Department of Transport as Virgin Orbit were set to launch a satellite into orbit from off the South West coast last night.

The warning advised fishing vessels of a “space launch hazard area” off the South West Coast, in effect between 10pm last night until 1am.

Mariners have been advised to avoid the area during and leading up to the launch period, “due to possible dangerous conditions from potential rocket debris” but the warning said the probability was low for dangerous debris to be produced.

Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said it is “not as simple as it sounds” for fishermen to avoid the approximately 1000sq km hazard area.

“You wouldn’t do this over a city or a town. You wouldn’t ask a farmer to get out of his field or move his cows,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rory Fitzpatrick, CEO of the National Space Centre in Midleton said yesterday was a “very exciting day” in Cork, as the centre is supporting Telemetry, Tracking and Control (TT&C) groundstation services for Virgin Orbit’s historic mission.

The ‘Start Me Up’ mission is the first orbital launch from UK soil, or from anywhere in Western Europe, and it was to carry satellites for seven customers to space.

Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 jumbo jet, ‘Cosmic Girl’ was due to set off from Cornwall at around 10.15pm last night with a LauncherOne rocket strapped under its wing (where normally a spare engine is stored), and climb 35,000 feet into the air as it headed towards the south west coast of Ireland.

Once in position, about 100 miles south west of the tip of Ireland, the LauncherOne rocket was to be released and launched into orbit, where it released eight satellites, each the size of a cereal box, into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

It was expected from the time of the launch it would take less than five minutes until the satellites were in orbit.

Working with partners Leafspace and Goonhilly, the National Space Centre in Midleton was perfectly positioned to help monitor the launch as it takes place off the Cork and Kerry coast.

“They can’t see from Cornwall, so they’re over with us because we have better visibility of where the launch is going to happen from Ireland. We’re the perfect location,” said Mr Fitzpatrick prior to the event.

However, Mr Murphy added that the decision by the government to allow the rocket launch over Irish waters shows little regard for the safety of fishermen, or the marine environment.

“We’re a disposable part of our country, we don’t matter, they don’t care,” he added.

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