• Article
  • 05 Nov 2021
Adam  StockleyPhoto
Adam Stockley

The Present (and Future) of Space in Cornwall

Kernow Sat 1 Virgin Orbit No Logo (1)

Spaceport Cornwall is shaping up to be a major player in the British space industry. 2021 has so far been a big year in the international space scene, and many of these developments have a knock-on effect for the future of Spaceport Cornwall.

Let us look at Cornwall’s vision for the future of its growing space sector and its goals for the rest of the decade.

Space Industry Developments

One of Spaceport Cornwall’s biggest partners is Virgin Orbit. The company has completed two launches this year, both of which received significant public attention. Hopefully, this will translate to considerable coverage for the 2022 launch at Spaceport Cornwall. Cornwall Council believes it will aid the much-needed recovery of the area’s economy after it has missed out on 18 months of tourism trade.

Further afield in Cornwall, Truro & Penwith College is currently building space training facilities on par with the UK’s current leading centres. It is a clear sign that Cornwall sees itself as a long-term hub for the British space sector. The college will offer apprenticeships, training, and degrees in various space-related subjects, and projects it will add £1 billion to the local economy.

Another important development was the signing of space regulations into law. Passed on 29th July 2021, the new legislation means there is now a legal framework for the British space sector. Importantly, it will allow Spaceport Cornwall to apply for licensing for its 2022 launch and will lead to a £4 billion boost to the market through jobs and infrastructure.

2022 and Beyond

Virgin Orbit’s 2022 launch will include Kernow Sat 1, a project announced at the G7 summit earlier this year. It will be the first satellite designed, built, and launched exclusively in Cornwall and will monitor the county’s coastline.

Although much focus is on this launch, Cornwall is setting its sites slightly further ahead, too. By 2030, it plans to achieve the following goals:

  • To be a major player in the British space industry with a focus on climate change and exploration missions. By doing so, it will foster growth in its local economy through jobs and facilities.
  • To be recognised on the global stage as a horizontal launch specialist.
  • To be the primary data and satellite operations centre for the British Government, and commercial and academic exploration missions.
  • To train and empower the next generation of data and space scientists through its facilities while also developing products and services related to the local space industry.

These are certainly lofty goals, but considering the progress made in the last year, there is no reason why they could not be achieved. Cornwall has the benefit of some powerful project partners, allowing it to progress at a considerable pace. What more evidence do we need than the UK’s first commercial space launch being less than twelve months away?

A Sustainable Future?

One advantage Cornwall has for its developing space sector is an eye for sustainability. Building a spaceport in the 2020s comes with different moral obligations than it did in the past, and Cornwall seems perfectly aware of this.

Its focus is on a self-contained space industry, keeping everything “in-house”. Is a somewhat insular model the future of the British space industry? Only time will tell.