Cornwall Council Approves $13.2 Million Grant for Virgin Orbit Project

Cosmic Girl performs first captive carry with LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Over strenuous environmental protests, the Cornwall Council approved a £10.3 million ($13.2 million) grant to fund improvements at Cornwall Airport Newquay to accommodate air launches by Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit.

Cornwall Live reports:

Members had been debating about the £10.3 million grant for the Spaceport Cornwall satellite launch programme for three hours. They rejected a motion to defer a decision and to address concerns about climate change.

Paul Wills, independent councillor for St Columb, had proposed the failed amendment calling for more information about the financial case for the project, more information about the environmental impact and for the entire scheme to be subject to scrutiny by councillors…

After deciding not to defer a decision, councillors voted to grant £10.32m of capital funding to the spaceport by 66 to 34, with one abstention.

The gallery then erupted with chants as protesters launched paper airplanes. The chamber was then cleared of councillors and the meeting adjourned as the crowds continued to chant and shouted at councillors as they left saying things like “shame on you”.

Protesters believe that funding the project is counter to the Cornwall Council’s earlier declaration of a climate emergency over global warming caused by growing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Virgin Orbit will use a modified Boeing 747 to air launch a rocket that will orbit small satellites. The funding will build ground facilities that will allow Virgin Orbit to operate out of the Cornwall airport.

The company is preparing for the first flight test of its LauncherOne booster.

Earlier this month, the UK Space Agency approved $ £7.35 million ($9.44 million) in funding to Virgin Orbit to support the company’s operations.

Virgin Orbit contribution to the project will total around £2.5 million ($3.2 million) .

The Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership will also provide £500,000 ($616,295) for improvements to the airport.