Spaceport Cornwall has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a potential second launch partner.

US-based space company Sierra Space has signed an MoU to explore collaboration opportunities following the completion of a UK Space Agency-funded ‘Concept of Operations’ for Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane.

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser is the world’s only commercial spaceplane that can land on a runway. It’s a multi-mission space utility vehicle designed to transport cargo to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station.

The MoU means that Sierra Space will use Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay as a potential landing site.

With more than 30 years of spaceflight heritage and more than 500 space missions supported, Sierra Space is seen as a valuable second launch partner for Spaceport Cornwall, in addition to Virgin Orbit, which is planning its maiden launch from Cornwall in 2022.

Melissa Thorpe, interim head of Spaceport Cornwall, said: “We are delighted to welcome representatives from Sierra Space to Cornwall during the G7 Summit, and to announce the signing of the MoU.

Spaceport Cornwall is a multi-user spaceport and it’s a great achievement to add an additional launch/reentry partner to our consortium a year ahead of first launch from the site in 2022. Satellite technology offers so much hope in combating many of the environmental challenges being discussed here this week, and we’re proud to be able to showcase the part Cornwall, and the UK is playing.”

Fatih Ozmen, CEO and owner of Sierra Space parent company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, said: “Sierra Space envisions launching and landing a fleet of Dream Chasers around the world. Spaceport Cornwall is an excellent partnership to assist in our endeavour to make space travel globally accessible.”

Cornwall Council’s economy portfolio holder, Steve Rushworth, added: “The signing of this MoU is another significant step forward for Spaceport Cornwall in the year leading up to the first launch.

“Not only will this lead to further diversification of Cornwall Airport Newquay, the economic benefit of a second partner will be wide reaching – increasing productivity and creating more job roles in what will be a multi-user spaceport.”