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Cornwall Spaceport launches explanation plans despite Virgin Orbit setback


Spaceport Cornwall is pressing ahead with the expansion of its “cluster” of space-related firms in Newquay and aims to see launches resume next year, with officials “stepping up talks” with other rocket firms.

Virgin Orbit was due to be the main operator to launch orbital missions from Spaceport Cornwall, based at Newquay airport, planning two launches a year up to 2030. That future is now uncertain.

Louis Gardner, cabinet member for the economy at Cornwall council, said that the county’s success in gaining a licence for Europe’s first operational spaceport was “due in no small part to the hard work done by Virgin”. He added, however, that the spaceport was “never just about Virgin Orbit” and it “was always about creating a cluster of space-related businesses”.

“We are talking to other launch operators and have a memorandum of understanding with Sierra Aerospace, who are doing passenger flights that will launch vertically from the US and [come back] horizontally into Newquay. We are in talks with other launch operators that want to put satellites into space in the same way as Virgin.”

Sierra Aerospace hopes to launch passengers into space aboard small space shuttle-style aircrafty from traditional rocket launchpads in America.

It had been hoped that Virgin Orbit would return for a second attempt to launch satellites into orbit from UK soil before the end of this year.

Asked when Cornwall could host its next orbital launch attempt, Gardner said: “We are not going to see a launch this year with a new operator, but I would certainly hope we could have a launch next year.”

Melissa Quinn, head of Spaceport Cornwall, said: “We are opening a new facility this month that will support global space and satellite businesses who will be using our satellite integration facility, R&D workspace and labs.”

She said “the news today from Virgin Orbit is very sad”, but added that the spaceport was “working directly with other launch operators”.

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