Preparations accelerate for the launch of Spaceport Cornwall

In a hangar at the edge of Newquay Airport is currently a technology that could help change Cornwall’s fortunes in the future – LauncherOne.

This impressive rocket is the revolutionary key component of Virgin Orbit’s horizontal satellite launch system, which is expected to launch from Cornwall Spaceport in about a year.

With the LauncherOne rocket sitting in the hangar behind it, a number of key Cornwall companies are discovering how they can get involved in the evolving space industry which is set to have a new home in Cornwall.

Above the speakers is a large screen showing videos of Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl plane launching LauncherOne into an azure blue sky during its recent test flights in the United States.

Last week, the rocket wowed world leaders who were invited to learn more about Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit en route to the G7 summit with Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly particularly interested in the project.

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Much has been said about Spaceport Cornwall since it was first announced, but the program is quickly becoming reality and is intended to give Cornish businesses a boost.

Along with a number of companies that are already working in the space industry or relying on data collected in space, there are also a number of other companies that are now finding that they will also be able to benefit from the arrival of new spaces and technology companies that are coming to Cornwall.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double, UKSA’s Ian Annet and Virgin Group chief Patrick McCall see the LauncherOne at the Newquay Airport Spaceport ahead of the G7 summit

For Stephen Eisele, Vice President of Business Development at Virgin Orbit, utilizing and developing new business opportunities in Cornwall has always been a key part of the plan.

“It’s a big part of who we are here, it’s not about providing a launch service, it’s about providing a space ecosystem and providing sustainable access to space.

“We want to help develop new opportunities in Cornwall, which include launching but having satellites and downstream applications, software, application building, all of that – and a lot of that will come from data coming from the satellites. in the space. That’s exciting.”

And Stephen was keen to point out that many companies that will use the spaceport and data from the launches are already there.

“The UK has an amazing space industry, you have so many factors in place, universities working there, work on STEM topics, manufacturing, it’s all there.

“The only thing you’re missing is the launch, we’ll do that, but we’re just one part of that bigger picture. When you have the launch, you’ll have full access to space.

The Virgin Orbit which will operate from Spaceport Cornwall and could launch Kernow Sat 1 from 2022
The Virgin Orbit which will operate from Spaceport Cornwall and could launch Kernow Sat 1 from 2022

Stephen said that currently UK companies working in space need to send their products and services overseas so they can be launched – having a launch base in the UK and Cornwall , this will give companies much more control over how their skills are used. .

When Virgin Orbit first considered using Cornwall as a launch site, Stephen admits they were “pleasantly surprised at what we found” saying that when reviewing the necessary supply chain for the spaceport, much of what was needed was already there.

He said, “If we bring in the rocket and then find out that we need a component, we don’t want to have to wait to get it from the United States. But we’ve found a company here that can make these components – they weren’t doing it before, but they have the capacity to do it.

“There are many different examples like this – how we can use existing businesses and businesses that will help supply the space industry. They may not traditionally be considered space companies, but they can be with a few slight changes. “

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747-400 launches LauncherOne

This is where the real benefits of Spaceport Cornwall are expected to be realized for Cornwall – helping businesses increase production and develop new skills and create new employment opportunities in highly skilled fields that could provide good jobs. paid for the future.

Bosses from Cornwall colleges and universities have been working with Spaceport Cornwall to see what skills and courses will be needed to help support the project and give young people the opportunity to work in the space sector.

These could range from a direct implication to how data collected by satellites sent into space can be used – whether for environmental and marine surveillance purposes or for agricultural purposes – some of which occur. already in Cornwall.

A partnership agreement has been signed between Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit and Goonhilly Earth Station to provide horizontal satellite launch facilities from Cornwall Newquay Airport

Stephen said, “I’m over the moon. It’s exciting, Cornwall is going to be a real contact base for the world, this is the first time that we have a mobile commercial launch system like the one we are offering at Spaceport Cornwall.

“This will be the first launch in the UK and we believe the UK should be part of the space industry because of what is already there.”

Stephen admitted that for the general public he might not be fully aware of what Spaceport Cornwall might do for Cornwall, and even that Spaceport might actually take off.

But with less than a year of the first launch from Spaceport Cornwall, he said: “We want people to catch the vision. It’s happening, it’s real.

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Travis Durham

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