Where is Spaceport Cornwall? What mission will take place there - how many spaceports will be developed in UK

Spaceport Cornwall has been awarded an operating licence to host the UK’s first space launch with Virgin hoping to launch its first rocket from the site “in the coming weeks”

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Spaceport Cornwall is now able to host the UK’s first space launch after being awarded an operating licence by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The site in Newquay can now be used to send satellites into space and its first mission is expected to be conducted by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company in the coming weeks.

Satellites produced in the UK have previously needed to be sent to foreign spaceports to get them into space.

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty described the awarding of the first spaceport licence in the UK as “an historic moment”.

Where is Spaceport Cornwall?

Spaceport Cornwall is based at Cornwall Airport Newquay - an active civilian airport with passenger flights around the UK and Europe.

It will be one of the only places in the world where you can be on a passenger aeroplane and look out your window to see a launch to space about to happen.

It demonstrated to the regulator that it met the appropriate safety, security, environment and other aspects to operate a UK spaceport.

The licence enables Virgin Orbit to begin rehearsals ahead of a proposed launch.

The growing space industry is estimated to be worth £16.5 billion and support 47,000 jobs, with 2,500 apprentices opening the sector up to even more people.

What mission will take place at Spaceport Cornwall?

The mission involves a repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft named Cosmic Girl and Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket. Both of the aircrafts travelled from California in the US to Spaceport Cornwall last week.

The 747 will take off horizontally from the new facility at Cornwall Airport Newquay while carrying the rocket, before releasing it at 35,000ft over the Atlantic Ocean to the south of Ireland.

The plane will return to the spaceport, while the rocket will ignite its engine and take multiple small satellites into orbit with a variety of civil and defence applications.

They will be the first satellites launched into space from Europe.

Their mission has been given the title Start Me Up in tribute to British band The Rolling Stones.

What has been said about Spaceport Cornwall?

Mr Moriarty said that Spaceport Cornwall being awarded an operating licence is “another major milestone to enable this country to become a leading launch nation.”

He added: “We’re proud to be playing our part in facilitating the UK’s space ambitions through assessing the safety, security and other requirements of these activities.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper, who was required to give consent to the regulator to issue the licence, said the “cosmic cornerstone is being laid for the UK’s first orbital space launch”.

He said: “Virgin Orbit’s planned launch reinforces our position as a leading space nation as we look to the future of spaceflight, which can spur growth and innovation across the sector, as well as creating thousands of jobs and apprenticeships.”

Virgin Orbit chief executive Dan Hart said the licence is a “key preparatory milestone” and Virgin hopes to launch its first rocket from the site “in the coming weeks”.

Meanwhile Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said it is “ready to open up the use of space for good”.

Are other spaceports being developed in the UK?

Spaceport Cornwall is one of seven spaceports being developed across Britain.

The first vertical space launch is expected to take place next year from the planned SaxaVord Spaceport on Unst in Shetland. A public consultation on the environmental effects of the spaceport was launched by the CAA last week.

The locations for four other proposed spaceports in Scotland are:

  • The A’ Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland
  • Prestwick in South Ayrshire
  • Campbeltown in Argyll and Bute
  • North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

Another spaceport has been planned at Llanbedr, Gwynedd, in North Wales.

The Government hopes commercial space launches will be worth £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade.

Related topics: