A £2m investment from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is paving the way for the first satellite launch from UK soil later this year.
The LEP is supporting the construction of new facilities at Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay, where five satellite payloads are already confirmed for commercial launch with Virgin Orbit this September.
The Centre for Space Technologies at Cornwall Airport Newquay includes a satellite integration facility, where satellites can be loaded into rockets ready for launch. This is on course to be completed next month. Adjacent to the integration facility will be a new operations facility aimed at space-related companies, with a clean room laboratory for satellite research and development.
When Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 ‘Cosmic Girl’ takes off from Spaceport Cornwall later this year with a 21-metre rocket under its wing, it will be the culmination of 10 years of work to bring Europe’s first horizontal spaceport to Newquay.
The UK Government launched a consultation on the criteria required to set up a UK spaceport in 2012. Two years later Newquay was shortlisted as one of eight potential locations, and this year will host the first ever satellite launch from UK soil.
LEP Chair, Mark Duddridge, said: “We’ve backed Cornwall’s spaceport bid from day one because we saw the potential for Cornwall to play a vital role in the UK’s space economy ambitions and create high value jobs.
“The global space industry could triple in value to more than $1 trillion by 2040 and what’s driving that is climate change, security and telecoms. The facilities we are helping to fund at Spaceport Cornwall are already having a catalytic effect and attracting new space companies to Cornwall.”
One of those is international space logistics company D-Orbit, which will establish a satellite assembly, integration, and testing facility at Spaceport Cornwall’s Centre for Space Technologies, with support from the European Space Agency (ESA).
Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, said: “The momentum towards launch is really building and the LEP has been a key strategic partner and funder in getting us to where we are today. Not just in terms of capital investment, but also supporting the day-to-day running of the team, skills development and our outreach work with young people across Cornwall to inspire careers in STEAM – science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths.
“It’s taken 10 years to get to this point and it really does feel that we are on the cusp of a generation of new opportunity in Cornwall.”
The LEP’s investment in Spaceport Cornwall includes £500,000 from the Government’s Local Growth Fund and £1.45m from Getting Building Fund. Further investment has come from Cornwall Council, the UK Space Agency, the European Regional Development Fund and Virgin Orbit.
The LEP has also invested £8.4m in the upgrade of Goonhilly Earth Station for deep space communications compatible with ESA and NASA standards, and able to track missions to the Moon and Mars.