The Government is inviting applications for grants to make the UK the first place in Europe where commercial space operators can launch small satellites into orbit, or offer spaceplane flights for science and tourism from 2020.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson has promised to publish draft legislation to enable safe spaceflight from the UK by 2020 in the next few weeks.
Growing the space and aerospace sector is a key priority for the LEP because of Cornwall’s nationally significant infrastructure at Goonhilly Earth Station including mission control, tracking and communication facilities, and the Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay with one of the UK’s longest runways and uncongested airspace.
The LEP will lead a bid to secure a UK spaceport licence that would allow for horizontal spaceplane launches deploying satellites from Cornwall Airport Newquay, and providing low-cost access to space and new launch capability for the UK.
Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “Cornwall Airport Newquay is the only site able to offer low cost access to space in the UK by the target date of 2020. We are perfectly placed to maximise the potential from the global small satellite launch market, and spaceplane development.
“We are studying the detail of the Government’s call for applications for grant support. They are expecting joint bids from potential launch sites and launch vehicle operators, and the Aerohub team at Newquay is already in dialogue with a number of potential partners from around the world.
“We are also working with three other LEPs with space-related assets to create a UK-based satellite launch programme and a UK spaceport in Cornwall. And we will be making the case for Cornwall’s ability to deliver what is a vital part of the Government’s new Industrial Strategy.”
The £10 million funding to support UK spaceflight comes as the Government announced the timeline for new legislation which will facilitate and regulate commercial spaceflight.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “Spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation. It provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country. That is why it is one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy.
“We want to see the UK space sector flourish, that is why we are laying the groundwork needed for business to be able to access this lucrative global market worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years. The call for proposals I announced today, together with a new, dedicated Spaceflight Bill, will help make our space ambitions a reality.”
The LEP and Aerohub will be attending a UK Space Agency conference in London later this month that will highlight progress being made towards small satellite launch and sub-orbital flights in the UK. The Cornwall team will be setting out why Newquay is the best place for a UK Spaceport.
And Cornwall will be represented at the national UK Space Conference in Manchester later this year.