CORNWALL, UK ( Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership PR) — Business and space industry leaders are backing plans to create the UK’s first horizontal launch spaceport in Cornwall.
Spaceport Cornwall would use planes rather than vertical take-off rockets to put satellites into space from Cornwall Airport Newquay as early as next year, in partnership with California-based launch company Virgin Orbit.
The spaceport would create 150 direct jobs by 2025 and add £200m [$246.5 million] to the Cornish economy every year. It would also act as a catalyst for growing Cornwall’s space sector, and inspire young people about careers in science and engineering.
Next week members of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet will decide whether to recommend a £12m [$14.79 million] investment in Spaceport Cornwall. If approved, the final funding decision will be taken by the full Council in November.
This would match-fund £7.85m [$9.68 million] already committed by the UK Space Agency, which has selected Cornwall as the UK’s first horizontal launch spaceport.
A further £500,000 [$616,295] is coming from the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, and £2.5m [$3.1 million] from Virgin Orbit. The company has invested around $1 billion in a system that uses a 747 aircraft with a rocket under its wing to launch satellites into space. There could be up to eight launches a year from Spaceport Cornwall by 2025.
Business and space industry leaders have written to Cornwall Council expressing their support for the plans, saying that a spaceport would boost the local economy, support efforts to tackle climate change by enabling better observation of earth from space, and help the UK realise its ambition of having a £40 billion [$49.3 billion] space economy and 100,000 new space-related jobs by 2030.
Claire Barcham, Commercial Space Director at the UK Space Agency, says in a letter to the Council published as part of the papers for next week’s Cabinet meeting: “Horizontal launch from Spaceport Cornwall will help Cornwall to take a leading role in the UK’s emerging spaceflight sector. An operational spaceport in Cornwall also has the potential to act as a ‘catalytic hub’ for the region. This is an extremely exciting time for the South West, which is home to a variety of unique space sector facilities, expertise and assets, including Cornwall Airport Newquay, which have the potential to play a significant role in shaping our future economy.”
Stuart Martin, Chief Executive of the national Satellite Applications Catapult, whose role is to support the creation of new space-related products, services and businesses, said: “Cornwall now has a unique opportunity to not only establish itself as a critical part of the UK’s space economy, but also to secure a substantial share of the economic returns that the 21st century space revolution will deliver.
“Many satellites have environmental objectives, with much of what we now understand about the environment deriving from satellites. From monitoring the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of polar ice and the changing of ocean currents, through to observing deforestation and ocean pollution. Without satellites, none of this would have been possible. Taken in the round, satellites are a huge force for good in our united fight against climate change and environment degradation, which we will all benefit from in the years ahead.”
Kim Conchie, chief executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, said: “The space sector is a fast-growing global market and average salaries are twice the Cornish average. Well known companies such as Goonhilly Earth Station, Avanti and Flann Microwave are already employing increasing numbers of local people and these established companies are being joined by new businesses. Our members are very excited about the potential of Spaceport Cornwall and the wider business community and I very much hope that Cornwall Council will choose to invest in this exciting opportunity.”
Matthew Thomson, Co-Chair of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, said: “The CIOSLNP notes the significant gains the region stands to make in terms of data, communications, connectivity, skills and wider economic potential if it takes up the opportunity to develop our space-tech capacity offered by the UK Space Agency. As a strategic partnership we look ‘beyond launch’ to the wide range of satellite applications we understand the spaceport will bring within the reach of Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly. In particular, we look forward to the spaceport and its associated activities enhancing our current capability to monitor environmental and land use changes. The CIOSLNP is ready to support the spaceport in any way we can, particularly by maintaining a clear focus on the carbon offset sufficiency and appropriateness.”
Amie Fulton, director of the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications and head of Innovation Impact and Business for the University of Exeter in Cornwall, said: “The University of Exeter is very supportive of the Spaceport Cornwall project. Space applications and satellite data play a critical role in natural resources management and environmental monitoring. Satellites bring observations of the global climate system together and contribute to the monitoring of greenhouse gases, changing of polar caps, sea level, and temperature. We would like to work with Spaceport Cornwall, Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Council to ensure that the Cornish solution to satellite launch is a platform to improve and protect the global and local environment.”
Mark Duddridge, chairman of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “Spaceport Cornwall is about much more than a satellite launch facility. It’s about creating opportunity and high value jobs in our economy, inspiring young people to achieve and creating new businesses through the use of space data. Earth observation using satellites is vital to monitoring our changing planet and informing the decisions we must take on the ground if we are to reach our objective of Cornwall being net zero carbon by 2030. The LEP is fully behind this project.”
An independent study commissioned by Cornwall Council from the University of Exeter and published two weeks ago concluded that total annual emissions from Spaceport Cornwall would be between 0.04% and 0.1% of Cornwall’s total carbon footprint.
The study said this was not expected to impact significantly on Cornwall’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and efforts in combatting climate change. The findings will be used to inform a carbon offset strategy for Spaceport Cornwall.