Whenever we think of space, the images of the endless void, stars, galaxies, spaceships and spaceports come to mind.
Sure, we might be years away from exploring the furthest stars. But hey, we’ve got to start somewhere, right? And with the recent surge in popularity observed in the field of satellites and space exploration, it might seem that we are well on the way.
However, such endeavours require the correct resources, such as spaceships, spaceports and so on. That is why we have talked about spaceports, or more specifically, the Cornwall spaceport, in this brief guide.
So, if you want to know more about it, hop in for the ride!
Where Is The Cornwall Spaceport Located?
The spaceport, which is commercially known as Spaceport Cornwall, is situated in the historic UK county of Cornwall (obviously) in Southwest England. It is the first spaceport in the UK that is designed to handle rocket ships. And while it may not help us to uncover the many secrets of the cosmos (yet), it can be highly beneficial for the growth of the UK’s space industry.
Spaceport Cornwall is part of Newquay’s Cornwall airport, which was previously used as a military airport by the Royal Air Force. It was converted to a civilian airport in 2008, and the work for the spaceport began in 2014. Subsequently, it was granted a spaceport licence in November 2022, when it became the first facility in the United Kingdom to have that.
That said, the spaceport is still not equipped to handle vertical rocket launches. At present, it can only be used as a platform for air-launch vehicles, such as those used by Virgin Orbit. It can also be used as a landing site for rocketships and space shuttles.
Why Was Cornwall Considered For The Spaceport?
There are several reasons why this spaceport was set up in the town of Newquay in Cornwall. For starters, its geographical position poses certain advantages for the establishment of spaceports.
Newquay is a coastal town that is situated on the northern shore of Cornwall County, which means that it is very close to the Atlantic Ocean. On top of that, there is minimal residential development around this region. Both of these factors are highly desirable for the development of spaceports since they can reduce safety risks if anything untoward were to happen.
Besides, the history of Cornwall Airport Newquay being used as a military airport was another reason why it was selected. The airport has a runway that is over 9,000 feet long, which makes it capable of handling civilian and military aircraft, as well as space launch vehicles.
Apart from that, the airport already had several state-of-the-art amenities in place, which made it the obvious choice. As a matter of fact, only two new facilities were constructed to convert it into a spaceport. These were the Space Systems Operations Facility and the Space Systems Integration Facility, both of which can be used for environmental intelligence, satellite manufacturing and other similar purposes.
Another big reason for selecting this location is its proximity to the Goonhilly Earth Station. Goonhilly is home to the world’s first and largest deep-space communications network that is privately owned. As such, this station helps in the monitoring, tracking and control of space missions.
In fact, the Goonhilly Earth Station was used to broadcast the moon landing mission of Apollo 11 in 1969 to more than 600 million people around the world. It was also used for tracking the Artemis I moon rocket launched by NASA in November 2022.
Missions Undertaken From Cornwall Spaceport
Given the nature of this spaceport, most of the space missions that will be launched from here will seek to deploy satellites into the Earth’s orbit. The Cornwall Council, which is responsible for the development and upkeep of Spaceport Cornwall, partnered with Virgin Orbit with the goal of launching several such missions.
On that note, the first launch mission at this spaceport was undertaken on January 9th, 2023. It was Virgin Orbit’s sixth mission, which was known as Start Me Up. While the launch was successful, the mission ultimately ended in failure due to an issue with the company’s LauncherOne rocket.
Several other companies are also expected to use Spaceport Cornwall as a launching site in the future. These include companies like Sierra Space, which is a US-based firm that seeks to launch reusable spaceplanes to carry cargo and crew to and from low earth orbit. However, there are no plans to launch any space tourism missions from this spaceport at present.
Can You Visit Cornwall Spaceport?
Considering the tourism potential of Cornwall, it is quite natural for you to ask such a question. The county has a relatively long coastline and contains several beaches. In that context, the beaches of Cornwall are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK, thereby implying that the region has a thriving beach culture.
Since it is the only major airport in the county, you will have to go through Cornwall Airport Newquay if you wish to visit this place. Naturally, you can catch a glimpse of the spaceport when you land here. So, to answer the above question – yes, you can visit the Cornwall Spaceport.
However, as we have stated before, there are no major plans for tourism at the spaceport yet, which means that you cannot get into the dedicated spaceport areas without permission. But you can watch the rocket launches from Cornwall Spaceport if you live in the surrounding areas.
With that, we have arrived at the end of this brief guide. So, if you have any plans to visit Cornwall or Newquay in the near future, you will find the information in this guide to be helpful.
Being the first spaceport in the UK, it has obviously drawn a lot of attention from tourists and space enthusiasts alike. And considering the potential of the space industry today, you can bet that it will become a major hub for space missions in the future.
That, in turn, might improve the prospects for space tourism and exploration, which will drive the growth of this spaceport even further.
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