Spaceport Cornwall: Newquay to become the hub for UK space travel
Spaceport Cornwall is set to become the first horizontal launch site in Europe to provide Mr Branson with a responsive, affordable and efficient way to deploy small satellites to Orbit on the Low Earth (LEO) . The break comes after Virgin Orbit completed the first full orbital release of its LauncherOne system from Mojave Air and Space Port in California last month. And, as “Mr Branson’s key delivery partner,” the Cornwall-funded project was able to host the first Virgin Orbit shows as early as 2022 – creating up to 350 jobs and adding up to £ 200million Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy.
But Interim Spaceport Cornwall CEO Melissa Thorpe says the company is already looking to the future.
She told Express.co.uk: “Virgin Orbit is a mobile launch platform – they go to their customer base.
“That means they will have several sites around the world – Cornwall will be a major European center – the same place in Europe.
“It is likely that they will come, on average, five times to launch each year. As the market grows that could go up a bit.
Richard Branson is reported to have chosen Cornwall as his European base for Virgin Orbit
Virgin Orbit has successfully tested its technology
“When they’re not here another company will also be launching. So what we need to do here is create other activities around the facilities at the airport.
“We need to encourage satellite companies, rocket engineers and engine testing to happen when Virgin is not here – so it’s not just a surprise. “
Spacecraft are traditionally used to launch spacecraft into orbit by blasting large heavy vehicles off launch missiles directly.
But Cornwall Airport will take a unique approach – allowing a modified Boeing 747 to travel up to 30,000 feet before the rocket explodes in what is known as a launch.
This can then shift the payment burden – which is expected to hold small satellites – to LEO.
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The upgraded Boeing 747 uses air launch technology
And Ms Thorpe explained how they are looking to make more changes to the site.
She said: “Between us and Goonhilly [Earth Station] there’s a lot going on at the moment, but I think Spaceport’s image tends to attract a lot of attention.
“What we’re trying to do now is support that with opportunities for companies to come and set up in Cornwall, so we’re looking at building a facility on the site. will be their home.
“At the moment, the airport is just an airport, and we’re weaving space light into that.
“We will have several [companies] announce in the coming weeks and months.
Spaceport Cornwill is going to be the main hub of Virgin Orbit in the UK
“We’ve worked with Skyrora – a fantastic rocket company based in Scotland before and there’s a lot to see in the future.”
Mr Branson is also the founder of Virgin Galactic – a space lighting company that aims to provide suborbital experiences to space tourists – a market that is expected to be worth £ 2.17 billion by 2030.
And Space Committee Chairman David Morris believes “it can happen” at Spaceport Cornwall’s future.
He said in a special conversation with Express.co.uk: “The idea is that it is on the Gulf Stream, it is warmer down there so that the weather is more reliable.
“If you launch from there you can see most of Europe, as well as Greenland and Iceland, leading up to the Arctic Circle.
The first release should come next year
“The view up there would be spectacular and that’s why Virgin is so interested in the flat site.
“I think this is progress and it will boost the economy. I think they are already looking at feasibility. ”
And while Ms Thorpe said Spaceport did not yet have concrete plans in place, she suggested it could be on board in the future.
She told Express.co.uk: “We have no plans at the moment, satellite launch is difficult enough.
“We need to make sure we can do that effectively first. We are 100 percent focused on our first publication.
“The industry is increasingly moving towards space lighting and Virgin Galactic is on the program in the US.
“If that becomes more successful and consistent, I’m sure we’ll look at how to do it in the UK.
Mr. Branson also owns another space company – Virgin Galactic
“Right now, it’s a long way off, because of the rules – we need to make sure we can launch satellites in front of people. ”
For years, the UK has outpaced its weight in the small satellite industry, but after Brexit, there have been concerns about how they will hold on to UK-based companies.
And Spaceport Cornwall could give Prime Minister Boris Johnson a lifeline.
The Government, seeking another for the EU’s Galileo project from which the UK was kicked out, has considered alternatives to an original plan to develop the satellite constel itself.
This has led to the cancellation of former Prime Minister Theresa May’s £ 5billion proposal for the UK’s GNSS system by following OneWeb – the Government’s LEO broadband constellation, along with Indian company Bharti Global, from bankruptcy.
OneWeb has begun launching its small satellites, with more than 100 now in orbit preparing for commercial service in 2021.
Virgin Galactic could bring space tourism to the UK
At the launch of December, 36 satellites were launched into space on a Soyuz rocket from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia.
But Mr Morris said the Government was now looking at options to launch OneWeb from UK soil.
He said Spaceport Cornwall will be an inspiration for the UK’s space package.
Mr Morris said: “I don’t want to be like a cheerleader for OneWeb, but the Government bought it and it’s an opportunity to showcase what we do well.
“OneWeb was developed on British technology, the Americans had a part to play, but they pulled back and we now have it with us.
“It attracts more money than we have paid for – it is already profitable.
Flights would provide a unique experience for customers
“We are already showing that we are leading the way in LEO technology globally.”
And Mr Morris grabbed OneWeb to be on the agenda when Mr Johnson meets with US President Joe Biden at the G7 Conference in Cornwall for the first time since its inception.
He said: “It’s a big deal, and we’re big at the moment.
“It doesn’t hurt Spaceport to show its credentials to the Americans at G7.
“They have had a voice before, so they may be interested in reinvesting in OneWeb after seeing how successful it has been in a few months.
Virgin Galactic test spacecraft over Spaceport America
“Americans know something good when they see it and may start to think like that in the future. ”
OneWeb was originally designed as a broadband constellation – it will deliver 4G, and one day 5G, rural internet signals in hard – to – reach areas.
The company says the latest development is on track to offer global internet services to customers starting with the UK, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland. , Iceland, the Arctic Oceans, and Canada in 2021 with global service continuing in 2022.
It works in LEO, as opposed to Earth’s central orbits used by Galileo, GPS and other navigation systems.
But while the plan sees OneWeb’s first series of satellites deployed for broadband, future developments could include navigation capability like Galileo.