The UK Space Agency will award £7.35m to Virgin Orbit UK Limited, the UK branch of US launch operator Virgin Orbit, to enable horizontal launch of small satellites at Cornwall Airport Newquay, it was confirmed today.
The funding will help to develop advanced ground support equipment, including UK-based manufacturing of key equipment, and conduct mission planning. Together with funding from the Cornwall Council for spaceport infrastructure, this grant helps secure the first satellite launch from Spaceport Cornwall, which Virgin Orbit are planning for the early 2020s, pending regulatory approvals.
Spaceport Cornwall estimates a horizontal launch spaceport at Cornwall Airport Newquay could create 150 immediate jobs, with additional opportunities for local businesses in directly supporting the site.
Science Minister, Chris Skidmore said: “We want the UK to be the first country in Europe to give its small satellite manufacturers a clear route from the factory to the spaceport. That’s why it’s so important that we are developing new infrastructure to allow aircraft to take off and deploy satellites, a key capability that the UK currently lacks.
“Today’s announcement will help the UK to harness the commercial opportunities offered by the global space industry and put the UK firmly on the map as Europe’s leading launch destination.”