Frequently asked questions

Your most commonly asked questions about Spaceport Cornwall answered.

Why do we need more satellites?

Satellites underpin modern life. From keeping us connected, to GPS, to monitoring climate change and advising environment policy makers, newer and more capable satellites are required to provide higher quality imagery and data at an increased rate.

What is Spaceport Cornwall’s environmental impact?

Spaceport Cornwall is passionate about using space to benefit life on Earth and believes in the role of space to fight climate change. However, launching space technology has been historically impactful, and Spaceport Cornwall wants to change this.
As the Spaceport is located at an existing operational airport with little new infrastructure and a low number of high-quality launches, the impact of launch in Cornwall will be very low. The University of Exeter has published a Life Cycle Analysis showing the impact across all activities of launch will add 0.057% and 0.071% to overall emissions in Cornwall. Spaceport Cornwall is committed to not just mitigating or offsetting but decreasing the impact all together through a Road to Net Zero Plan. You can find out more on our sustainability page.

Can I come and see the launch?

Yes, there will be an opportunity to watch the launch, in person or from home. Virgin Orbit will be streaming a live broadcast on the day, which will give fantastic behind the scenes video coverage and commentary. There will also be an area at Spaceport Cornwall that people will be able to watch Cosmic Girl take off and land. Tickets to this event will be available soon.

How much will Spaceport Cornwall cost?

Spaceport Cornwall is being developed for just over £20M, which is made up from Cornwall Council (£5.6M), Virgin Orbit (£2.5M), UK Space Agency (£7.35), European Regional Development Funding (£2.8M), Getting Building Funding (£1.4M), G7 Legacy Funding (£300,000) and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (£500,000).

Why is Cornwall Council investing in a Spaceport?

Spaceport Cornwall is growing a new sector in Cornwall, providing over 150 jobs and £240M of GVA growth to the region, while inspiring a generation of young people to study STEM subjects. The Council’s investment is going towards upgrading its own asset, Cornwall Airport Newquay, in order generate additional revenue which will be invested back into Cornwall.

Shouldn’t Cornwall Council spend money on local services, not a Spaceport?

The Cornwall Council portion of the spaceport budget is prudential borrowing, and not from the Council’s core budget. Therefore, by investing in the Spaceport, it does not come at the detriment of other Council services. In fact, the investment is expected to see a return in the coming 5 years, adding critical revenue generation for the Council to reinvest back into the community.

Will Spaceport Cornwall launch space tourists?

There are currently no plans for humans to launch from Cornwall. Any proposals of this nature would require their own business plan and the proposal would have to be taken through a full Cornwall Council approval process.

What about space debris?

Space debris is a growing issue, especially as more humans travel into space. Spaceport Cornwall is actively working with several world-leading space debris companies, supporting them and their innovative technologies to access space and clean up orbits. In addition, the UK Space Agency is regulating what satellites are launched from UK soil and monitoring their deorbiting policies.

Will Cornwall Airport Newquay shut?

No, Spaceport Cornwall is being completely integrated with all the existing activities at Cornwall Airport Newquay. There may be times during launch where areas of the airfield have to be cleared for safety purposes, however, it should be a minimal amount of disruption and for a short period of a few hours.

Is the military involved?

Protecting democracy in space is something Spaceport Cornwall supports through involvement with the Ministry of Defense (MoD). The MoD is a partner of Virgin Orbit which will offer responsive satellite launch for military communication satellites. There will be two spacecraft on the first launch that are joint UK/USA Military, for weather and GPS. The RAF have also supported the launch through transport of the LauncherOne rocket and welfare provision at RAF St Mawgan.

How Many launches a year will happen from Spaceport Cornwall?

Over the next 5 years, Virgin Orbit will launch 2 times a year from Spaceport Cornwall. Other launch operators may also begin launching from Cornwall. Cornwall Council has put a limit of 12 launches a year for environmental impact reasons.

Is the Spaceport only for Virgin Orbit?

No. While Virgin Orbit are the first to use the facilities, Spaceport Cornwall will be a multi-user Spaceport with other operators using the facilities, including Sierra Space as a return landing site for Dreamchaser. In addition, the facilities are also being used by space and data companies who are growing a cluster around the site.

Will rockets be blasting off from the airport?

No, Spaceport Cornwall is a horizontal spaceport, where a carrier aircraft takes the rocket out over the sea, as high up as 35,000 ft and the rocket blasts off mid-air. There are no plans for a traditional, vertical rocket launch from Cornwall.

What are the new buildings going to be used for?

There are two new facilities on-site at Cornwall Airport Newquay, specifically for Spaceport Cornwall. They make up the Centre for Space Technologies and consist of: The Space Systems Integration Facility and the Space System Operations Facility. Both of these facilities will be used by multiple businesses working alongside Virgin Orbit, and include satellite manufacturing, environmental intelligence and sustainable space businesses.