Luke Winfield, Operations Manager
How we operate a spaceport
Cornwall Airport Newquay is developing operational capability to act as a licensed spaceport under the Space Industry Act 2018, trading under the brand of Spaceport Cornwall. Compared to the traditional ‘vertical’ launch site, Spaceport Cornwall is a horizontal spaceport catering for carrier aircraft, spaceplanes and other vehicles requiring the use of a runway to take-off or land.
Spaceport Cornwall leverages the existing facilities and services at Cornwall Airport Newquay to deliver this capability. Facilities and infrastructure include a 2,744 m x 45 m runway, fuel storage, approach & runway lighting, navigation aids, surveillance systems and a secure perimeter to contain and protect the safety of operations.
Support services include Air Traffic Control, Airfield Engineering, Security, Airfield Operations and the Rescue & Fire Fighting Service.
Whereas vertical launch sites need to develop these facilities and services from scratch, Cornwall Airport Newquay continues business-as-usual until launch operations commence. Resources are then deployed as necessary to support the mission.
Sustainability lies at the core of Spaceport Cornwall’s vision. While this refers to the environmental and economic impact of spaceflight activities, it also reflects the desire to operate an integrated “air and space port” with consideration for based operators and visiting aircraft alike. Operations at the spaceport are specifically designed to minimise impact to third parties.
High-level technical overview
The spaceport licence sits alongside the aerodrome’s operating certificate, and both are issued by the UK’s air and space regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority. Spaceport Cornwall is committed to complying with all safety, security and environmental requirements of the Space Industry Regulations 2021 and Space Industry Act 2018, as well as other statutory requirements.
Once issued, Spaceport Cornwall will be authorised to operate horizontal launch systems. Any spaceflight operation from the UK requires a Launch/Return Operator’s Licence for the launcher, an Orbital Operator’s licence for the payload as well as a Spaceport Licence relevant to that operation. Spaceport Cornwall will support all future based operators in navigating the regulations and securing the appropriate permissions, as well as amending the licence where necessary.
Cornwall Airport Newquay is a medium-sized regional airport, providing the county with connections to a variety of major cities and holiday destinations. Whilst regularly serving turboprops and jet aircraft up to Code C, the airport is capable of handling up to Code E. This was demonstrated during the 2021 G7 Summit which was held in St Ives, Cornwall, with all delegates arriving at the airport for the event.
In addition to airline traffic, Cornwall Airport Newquay caters for helicopter training, Coastguard, Air Ambulance, charter aircraft as well as offering FBO and MRO services.
The airport features CAT III ILS, Primary and Secondary Surveillance Radar, NDB, DME. Tower and approach control services are provided within an ATZ of 2.5 nautical miles laterally and 2,000 ft vertically.
The airport’s RFFS capabilities extend to CAT 9 on request.