Cornwall has moved a significant step closer to being home to Europe’s first horizontal launch spaceport, after securing the promise of £20 million of funding.
Subject to the business case and final approvals, Cornwall Council will inject up to £12 million and the UK Space Agency £7.85 million for Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit as part of the Industrial Strategy spaceflight programme – LaunchUK. A further £500k will be contributed by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP.
This would allow Virgin Orbit, which itself is investing around £2.5 million in the project, to develop facilities and operational capabilities that would enable small satellite launch from Cornwall Airport Newquay in the early 2020s.
The Government is ensuring the UK plays a leading role in the new space age as part of its modern Industrial Strategy, with new support for domestic satellite launch capability and space weather forecasting, as well as a new National Space Council to improve UK space strategy.
There are significant opportunities for the growing UK space sector as commercial space activity increases globally and the United States leads international efforts to return humans to the Moon by 2024.
Spaceport Cornwall could create 150 jobs and enable the UK to compete for a share of the global market for launching small satellites worth a potential £3.9 billion to 2030. Launch from the UK will be an opportunity to inspire children and young people to take up careers in science, engineering or even as space entrepreneurs.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Space is not only about pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, it is a rapidly growing sector of our economy which plays a key role in our modern Industrial Strategy, promotes Global Britain and ensures our national security.
“These exciting plans from Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit to make horizontal launch a reality from Cornwall will help further our position as a leader in the new space age.
“Alongside our commitment to the proposed vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland, this is making the UK the most attractive place in Europe for those looking to Earth’s orbit and beyond.”
Last month, Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, visited Cornwall Airport Newquay to meet some of those involved in Cornwall’s thriving space sector and hear more about their plans for horizontal spaceflight.
Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “Cornwall is the birthplace of innovation and technology and space is at the heart of our 21st century economy.
“With assets like Spaceport Cornwall, world-class mission control facilities at Goonhilly Earth Station and superb digital connectivity, Cornwall will play a vital role in the growth of the global space economy.”