The proposed horizontal launch spaceport at Cornwall Airport Newquay is not expected to impact significantly on Cornwall’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and efforts in combatting climate change, according to an independent scientific study by a leading energy and environment specialist at the University of Exeter.

The Spaceport Cornwall Carbon Impact Assessment was commissioned by airport owner Cornwall Council to inform plans to offset any carbon impact from the Spaceport as part of the Council’s commitment to making Cornwall’s economy net zero carbon by 2030.

The research looked at projected horizontal satellite launch activity between 2021 and 2030 and calculated the likely greenhouse gas emissions per year.

The study found that total annual emissions from Spaceport Cornwall would be between 0.04% and 0.1% of Cornwall’s total carbon footprint and concluded that this was ‘relatively low’ in comparison to overall emissions.

There is expected to be one launch in year one, with up to no more than eight a year projected by 2025. Horizontal launches use a modified airliner to a carry a rocket to launch altitude rather than traditional vertical-launch rockets. The launch vehicle then returns to the airport and is able to be reused repeatedly.

The aim is to ensure that any carbon emissions from the spaceport are more than offset, in line with the Council’s plan to help Cornwall strive towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030. In line with the Councils plans, satellite launch operators will be required to meet the carbon costs of operations through their launch fees.

The study was conducted by Dr Xiaoyu Yan, senior lecturer in energy and environment at the University of Exeter and part of its Environment and Sustainability Institute team based at Penryn in Cornwall.

Dr Yan said: “This report provides a rigorous assessment of the direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from planned launches and ancillary activities associated with launch missions at the proposed spaceport.

“The magnitude of these emissions is relatively low compared with total CO2 emissions in Cornwall. Overall, the proposed Spaceport Cornwall is not expected to impact significantly on Cornwall’s total GHG emissions and efforts in combatting climate change.”

Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport said: “This report scientifically sets out the expected carbon impact of horizontal launches from Spaceport Cornwall.

“With this information we can make sure our plans to tackle the climate emergency offset that impact in line with our ambition to have a net zero carbon economy by 2030. By offsetting any carbon impact from the Spaceport, Cornwall could lead the way in sustainable satellite launches.”