Spaceport Cornwall: A follow up

30th Jan 2024
Spaceport Cornwall: A follow up

We wrote recently about Spaceport Cornwall and their efforts since LauncherOne failed to proceed from off the coast of Ireland and the subsequent collapse of exclusive launch partner Virgin Orbit. Our piece was well-researched and accurate and yes, we did speculate on what the future held for the “spaceport”. But maybe we missed the point.

Our view was (and still is) that a spaceport needs a launch partner, otherwise, it’s a bit of a misnomer. But in the case of Spaceport Cornwall, there’s more than meets the eye.

The big picture

The team at Spaceport Cornwall contacted us after we published the piece, wishing to provide their side of the story so as to show the public (and fellow space industry people) that their future maybe wasn’t as bleak as we painted it and that in their view they were on a journey towards a more broadly defined success. This was good news. 

We don’t want to see any of the projects within the UK space strategy fail. In fact, quite the absolute opposite is true. It is one of our primary missions to help support and report on the country’s space ambitions. So we jumped at the chance to interview Ross Hulbert, the spaceport’s Head of Engagement.

Spaceport Cornwall have turned the idea of a spaceport on its head. Instead of a site focused on hauling stuff into space, they’ve chosen to build an ecosystem. Other sites have diversified by building engine testing facilities, but even then, most have not diversified to the extent that Cornwall has.

But what about the launch?

The first liftoff for British aviation was at Farnborough, Hampshire, and you can still take off from there. Will the UK launch be as fortunate? One may hope.

Our interview with Ross Hulbert focused on new launch partners as an element of the broader plan for the spaceport. However, Spaceport Cornwall also published an article shortly after our chat with them. Firstly, the company did say in that piece that there were no launches planned for 2024, but a launch in 2025 was possible. In both, the names of potential partners couldn’t be released, but as Ross told us, “the list of potential companies is rather small.” Horizontal launch is still a niche market segment at the moment.

So, when our next UK spaceports ranking comes out, we’ll have to sadly move Cornwall down the list. That said, we’re still upbeat about the prospects for the UK’s first-ever functioning spaceport. And at least now we have a possible date… 2025… so, watch this space!

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