Cornwall to become UK's first satellite launch base in 50 years

Cornwall deemed best place to operate one of the first launches of Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket Credit: Virgin Orbit

Cornwall Airport in Newquay is to become the UK's first satellite launch base in 50 years.

The county was considered the ideal location to operate theLauncherOne rocket outside of the US.

The first launch is planned for 2021, after Virgin Orbit signed an agreement with Cornwall Council at the Farnborough International Airshow.

The Council say launching horizontal small satellites will help boost industry in the UK. It means Virgin Orbit will be able to conduct cheaper and quicker missions by bypassing busier, more established launch sites.


  • Modified Boeing 747-400's will carry a rocket containing a small satellite.

  • The rocket will be carried under the right wing of the aircraft as it takes off from Newquay Airport.

  • The aircraft will then release the rocket at some point over the ocean where it will continue to ascend into space carrying the satellite.

Horizontal air-launches will make it cheaper to release satellites Credit: Virgin Orbit

Cornwall Council believe Spaceport Cornwall could contribute £25m a year to the local economy and could create 480 new jobs.

Cornwall Airport Newquay, which is owned by Cornwall Council, was first unveiled as one of the UK’s potential Spaceport locations in July 2014 because of its long runway, uncongested airspace and direct access to the Atlantic Ocean.

Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP