Europe’s first horizontal launch Spaceport could be based in Cornwall, after nearly £8m was secured for the project from the UK Space Agency.
Cornwall Council will provide up to £12m for the scheme, subject to approval by full council, alongside up to £7.85m from the UK Space Agency. A further £500,000 will come from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The cash will allow Spaceport Cornwall and US launch operator Virgin Orbit, which is investing £2.5m, to develop facilities and operational capabilities that would enable small satellite launches from Cornwall Airport Newquay (pictured) 'in the early 2020s'.
The council said Spaceport Cornwall could create 150 jobs and enable the UK to compete for a share of the global market for launching small satellites worth £3.9bn to 2030.
Council leader Julian German said: ‘Cornwall is the birthplace of innovation and technology and space is a key part of a 21st century economy.
‘With assets like Spaceport Cornwall, world-class mission control facilities at Goonhilly Earth Station and superb digital connectivity, Cornwall can play a vital role in the growth of the global space economy.’
LEP chair Mark Duddridge said: ‘This announcement is the culmination of five years’ hard work and will be transformative for Cornwall. It puts us and the UK at the heart of the international satellite launch market, offering affordable access to space, and will inspire a generation.’
Business secretary Greg Clark said: ‘Alongside our commitment to the proposed vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland, this is making the UK the most attractive place in Europe for those looking to Earth’s orbit and beyond.’
The UK Government is working with the US to establish the necessary technical and legal safeguards for US space launch vehicle operations from UK launch sites.
The US State Department has already approved a technical assistance agreement, allowing detailed technical discussions and strategic planning to commence. This would allow Virgin Orbit to operate its LauncherOne system and Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft from Cornwall Airport Newquay. A maiden US launch is expected later this year, the council said.