A trade mission to North America has reported strong interest from potential investors in a spaceport in Cornwall.
The delegation, led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), met with a number of potential investors last week and visited spaceport facilities in California and New Mexico.
The LEP is leading a bid to establish a spaceport at Cornwall Airport Newquay in response to a Government drive to have a commercial launch facility in the UK by 2020.
The £30,000 cost of the trip was paid for out of the LEP budget for investment.
The spaceport could offer horizontal take-off facilities for satellite launches, research missions and human space flight, with space tracking capabilities available from Goonhilly Earth Station.
Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the LEP, was part of the delegation that visited the US.
She said: “We’ve got strong interest from potential spaceport operators and investors who view Cornwall as an ideal location to access the European commercial space market for horizontal satellite launch, spaceflight research and human spaceflight.
“This isn’t a case of building a spaceport in the hope that they’ll come. What we are discussing are enhancing our airport facilities for specific operators and the wider supply chain, with the bulk of investment coming from private businesses who want a foothold in Europe.
“It’s clear from what we have seen that the sector is well advanced and this gives us confidence there is a real market we can tap in to. What’s really exciting are the wider supply chain opportunities because these operators will need businesses to be co-located in Cornwall. That could include all sorts of aerospace-related activity from jet propulsion testing to manufacturing, as well as tech companies exploring the satellite market for things like agritech and mining.”
Adam Paynter, Leader of Cornwall Council, was also part of last week’s delegation. He said: “Commercial spaceflight is a huge opportunity for Cornwall and these operators are serious about being able to access new markets from Newquay.
“The Council owns the airport and is keen to build on the success of the Aerohub Enterprise Zone which offers tax breaks for investors and supports hundreds of skilled, well-paid jobs.”
Following the delegation a number of return visits to Cornwall from potential investors are expected. The identities of the companies interested in Newquay are commercially confidential and are not being disclosed.
The Government estimates that the global commercial spaceflight market could be worth £25 billion over the next 20 years and has drafted legislation to enable spaceflight from the UK by 2020.
Newquay Cornwall Airport, which is the fastest growing regional airport in the UK, is attractive to spaceport operators because it has uncongested and unrestricted airspace, one of the UK’s longest runways, 100% business rate relief and is the largest planning-free development site in the UK.
It is also on the doorstep of one of the most diverse and capable aerospace clusters in the world, with more than 900 aerospace-related companies operating across the South West region, contributing some £3.2 billion to the economy.