Driving away from our launch event night on the 9th of January was hard! We had built up to this moment for almost the last decade and everything felt so perfect, right up to the last minute when we learnt through the live broadcast that LauncherOne had not made it to its correct orbit.
I have been with the Spaceport Cornwall project for the last three years, engaging audiences of all ages in the world of space and STEM through a range of in school talks, resource development, on site visits, exhibitions, challenges and work experience. The team and I are trying to engage every student in Cornwall and I think we are almost there. We work with students from primary age through to post university and have seen some incredible engagement and excitement over the years, it really is one of the highlights of working for the Spaceport and we all love it.
Building up to launch night we had plans to try and promote the successful launch on more of a national level, engaging young people in the developments in the space sector across the UK and building up to the first ever orbital launch from the UK with our broadcast #Countdown2Launch hosted by British and ESA Astronaut Tim Peake and an ex-Falmouth University student Rachel Harrison. We filmed all of the content at London Science Museum and only needed to drop in the launch sequence to be ready to share it with the 60,000 students that has signed up for the broadcast.
Going back to driving away from launch night itself, the whole team were disheartened, years of serious effort had not paid off and we were seriously gutted. I also thought that we may have to cancel the whole broadcast and let students down across the country.
The next day after the dust had settled a little, we met as a team, we shared our disappointment, but we quickly dusted ourselves off. There was sooo much to be proud of and there is still a lot of work to do! Some of the things we had achieved include:
– We have a launch partner. Not just any launch partner, but one who has launched successfully into space four times and will launch many more times in the future.
– We were the first spaceport in the UK to be granted a license to launch rockets into space. These words don’t sound like a lot, but the work that went in to secure this license was monumental. Working with our partners the CAA, UKSA and Virgin Orbit.
– We directly engaged more than 100,000 young people in space and STEM in the build up to launch and many, many thousands more on the night of launch and through the press coverage both pre and post.
– The launch itself from a Spaceport perspective was successful. It was safe, Cosmic Girl took off perfectly, we had 2,000 people on site to witness this on a mild January night and the facilities that have been built were appropriate for the needs of our partner.
There are so many positives to take away from launch and we had to remind ourselves of that, whilst also taking away all of the lessons of what could be done better next time, what little snags could be changed from our perspective as a spaceport to make things slightly smoother or improve process.
From my perspective after thinking on it for a night we decided to pivot the #Countdown2Launch broadcast, so much effort had gone into the making of it and we still had a story to be told and to be proud of. The story of resilience!
A story that is so important to learn, but never a fun one to learn. The broadcast will still tell the story of the growing space sector in Cornwall and across the UK, something to be hugely excited about, but will also show the launch and the fact that on this occasion it wasn’t 100% successful. We still have tens of thousands of students signed up to the broadcast and we really hope that this will help them next time they are working through a challenge, or are finding themselves needing to be resilient and bounce back so that they can do things event better next time.
As John F Kennedy said in his, ‘We choose to go to the Moon’ speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Space is hard, but we will have a successful launch from the Cornwall, as well as other parts of the UK within the next year or so and that is something to be massively excited about.
If you’re a teacher and want to find out more about the broadcast and sign up, click here.
Dave Pollard, Education and Outreach Manager