Spaceport Cornwall got a boost on Wednesday as the Cornwall Council’s Cabinet narrowly approved the expenditure of £12 million ($14.79 million) to support Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launch company.
The 6-4 vote sends the proposal to the full Cornwall Council for a vote at its next meeting on Nov. 26. The contribution is part of a £22.5 million ($28.1 million) program for upgrades to the Cornwall Airport Newquay that also includes:
- UK Space Agency: £7.5m ($9.68 million)
- Virgin Orbit: £2.5m ($3.1 million)
- Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership: £500,000 ($616,295)
Virgin Orbit will use a Boeing 747 to air launch satellites using its LauncherOne booster. The company is planning to conduct its first test launch within the next two months.
According to a staff report prepared for the Cabinet, the funds would allow the airport to acquire a spaceport license, make improvements that will allow it to accommodate wide-body aircraft, accelerate progress on its Aerohub Enterprise Zone, and add value to its business park.
“Spaceport Cornwall is an opportunity for Cornwall to create high value jobs in a fast-growing sector that is worth £14.8bn in the UK,” the report stated. “The initial Spaceport project will create 150 direct jobs by 2025, which are 2.6 times more productive than the national average. This will add £200m [$249.5 million] Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy and will act as a catalyst for wider growth in associated sectors which use space derived data and applications.
“Specifically, Spaceport Cornwall will provide sovereign launch capability for small scale satellites and see a ‘pathfinder’ launch delivered by 2021,” the document added. “There are no plans to develop human space flight as part of the Spaceport Cornwall.”