The Government’s UK Space Agency has confirmed that it will give £7.35 million to Virgin Orbit, in order for it to operate from Newquay Airport in Cornwall.
The funding from the UK Space Agency is aimed to support the development of the equipment necessary at the airport in order to base Virgin’s launch aircraft, and support its missions and mission planning. Virgin Orbit hopes to be in a position to conduct satellite launches from the first half of the next decade.
The ambition of being able to launch satelites into space from “Spaceport Cornwall” also has the backing and funding from Cornwall Council.
The CEO of Virgin Orbit, Dan Hart said; “We’re tremendously excited to be supporting the UK Space Agency and Cornwall Council by bringing space launch to the UK. By establishing a strong local hub for our launch system, this joint project will boost UK participation in a fast-growing global space economy while also providing direct, ready, and responsive access to space for government missions.
“We very much look forward to furthering our ties with the cutting-edge satellite innovators across the UK and with local industry, who will be critical partners in fulfilling the full potential of this endeavour.
“We’re eager to set up a world-class launch facility at Spaceport Cornwall, bring domestic space launch to the UK, and launch the next generation of satellite developers in their quest to better understand our Earth and our environment, connect human kind, serve national security, and explore our solar system.”
Pending regulatory approvals in the US and UK, Virgin Orbit plan to operate its LauncherOne system from Cornwall Airport Newquay using a modified Boeing 747 jet to carry the launcher system. Virgin Orbit will make its own contribution to the project of around £2.5 million, with the company’s launch activities helping to attract new business and investment opportunities, as well as inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Minister for the Future of Transport, George Freeman said: “This latest investment in Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit is the exciting result of Government and the aerospace sector working together to help potential spaceports realise their global ambitions.
“The UK is a world leader in small satellite technology and we are committed to supporting the UK as a world leader in space technology, and establishing a network of spaceports that enables us to operate regular flights is key to that.”
The investment comes alongside an award of £31.5 million to a project in Scotland which intends to create a vertical launch spaceport at Sutherland.
Personally, I think this is a great use of investment money, and it is certainly good for Cornwall. The county has a great affinity with progress and developments in this area, with Goonhilly Downs just down the road as a prime and very visible example.
The sight of that aircraft and rocket taking off over the Newquay coastline must be a spectacle to behold.