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Spaceport Cornwall plans for 2025 launches

January 12, 2024

By Chris Forrester

By now Spaceport Cornwall, near Newquay in the South-West of England, had expected regular ‘flights’ from the Virgin Orbit ‘Cosmic Girl’ aircraft and rocket combination. That enterprise went bust in May 2023, but the Spaceport is now planning for its next launch activity.

Virgin Orbit’s modified jet Cosmic Girl took off from Spaceport Cornwall on the night of 9 January 2023. The aircraft reached space, but a technical fault with a dislodged fuel filter meant the nine satellites onboard its LauncherOne rocket failed to deploy.

After 12 months, Spaceport Cornwall says an announcement about a new launch partner is imminent. Ross Hulbert, head of engagement at Spaceport Cornwall, told ITV News: ”I’m aware that when people think of a spaceport, they want to see launches. “We are in early stage discussions with an established launch provider to hopefully be launching here from as early as 2025. And we’re looking to announce that in the next few months.”

He continued: “We’re looking at one to two launches a year, maybe three launches a year in future years, but it’s never been designed to be a Cape Canaveral. There’s never going to be a time where we’ll be having a launch every single month, and that was never the intention.”

Lois Gardner, the Cornwall Council Portfolio Holder for the Economy, added: “I’m hugely proud of the fact that putting [the Virgin] satellites into orbit wasn’t successful, but we still conducted a successful launch here in Cornwall. We remain the only operational Spaceport in Western Europe. Since then we’ve opened the new operations facility and we’ve introduced a number of new space related businesses into Cornwall.”

The hangar known as the Integration facility used by Virgin Orbit is currently empty.

But there’s plenty of activity. In total, 13 space related firms have moved into the newly built Space Systems Operations Facility also at the Spaceport site. They include Avanti Communications, which operates a fleet of four satellites from both Goonhilly and Spaceport Cornwall.

Paul Collins, Avanti’s Director of Spacecraft Operations, said: “People have now become aware that there is actually a space industry down here. It’s always been here. It’s just not had much of a high profile. For us it’s really exciting. This facility is really perfect for our particular needs.”

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