Council hopes first space launch from Cornwall could happen at end of October
Virgin Orbit is due to send up a satelite from Spaceport Cornwall’s base at Newquay Airport.
Cornwall Council says it hopes that the first launch from Spaceport Cornwall could take place at the end of October, with Virgin Orbit set to be the first to launch from the new spaceport at Newquay Airport.
The spaceport will be a horizontal launch site which will be used to send satellites into space – the devices are attached to modified aeroplanes which will take off from the airport and then launch the satellites into orbit whilst in the air. It will be the first spaceport in the UK.
It had previously been stated that the first launch would happen earlier in the summer but various delays have meant that did not happen. But this week councillors were told that it was hoped that the first launch will take place this year.
Louis Gardner, Cabinet member for the economy, said: “We all want to see the spaceport succeed. The plan has always been this year to do a launch in quarter four, that remains the plan.
“There is a launch window that opens on October 29 and stays there for a number of weeks where we plan to do the launch. It remains to be the plan to do the launch in that window.
“The difficulty with this now is the number of agencies involved in the licensing, you have got the UK Space Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority and other players that are all having a part in that.
“What the team have been doing is fighting through what is going to be different between that first launch and the huge safety basket that is 1,250ft from the aircraft wherever it is, that goes as it moves down the runway, to subsequent launches and how best to prepare for that. It is the licensing that has been quite tricky on this one.
“We think now that these difficulties have been dealt with, the team have adapted really quickly. It remains the intention to launch in that launch window that opens on October 29”.
Cllr Gardner also gave an update on the facilities which have been developed for the spaceport, saying: “The satellite integration facility is now handed over, that was completed slightly ahead of time and on budget and is now in the hands of the spaceport. That satellite integration facility is not just for Virgin Orbit, it will be able to be used by other providers that need that sort of space.
“That is a UK first, the whole thing is a UK first and that is the difficulty, this has never been done before and everyone in all those different agencies are saying we have got this question, this concern”.
Cornwall Council has been leading the project to create Spaceport Cornwall on its land at Newquay Airport. Virgin Orbit is set to use the spaceport as its UK launch site having carried out launches from its base in the US.
The council has said that the spaceport could bring new jobs into Cornwall and boost the economy by attracting new businesses in the space industry as well as supporting those already working in the sector.
Spaceport Cornwall is intended to only be used for horizontal launches with a spaceport for vertical launches planned in Scotland.