'A massive moment - then some sleep' - Spaceport boss on today's history-making launch in Cornwall

  • Watch Melissa Thorpe speak to ITV News West Country presenter Sabet Choudhury

Cornwall is set to make history tonight as Newquay hosts the UK's first ever rocket launch.

Today (9 January) Sir Richard Branson’s company Virgin Orbit will operate the UK’s first space launch from Newquay.

Ahead of the launch Head of Spaceport Cornwall Melissa Thorpe told ITV News West Country that it's a "proud day for the team".

She said: "We've been waiting years for this. It's been so much hard work, and challenges and hurdles and pandemics.

"It's been a lot - it's been quite a roller coaster.

"When you're in it you kind of forget from the outside what it looks like. It's been a reminder the past few days with people waking up to it happening globally and being like wow it's happening.

"It's an underdog story - nobody expected it to be Cornwall.

"We know here that it's just the next chapter, Cornwall has always been at the forefront of so much, of pioneering technologies, and this is just another iteration of that."

Speaking of issues surrounding the environmental impact and financial cost of the launch, Melissa added: "I completely understand where people's concerns come from and that's why we've tried to be as transparent as possible.

"We're trying to show you the good, the bad and the ugly of this launch.

"But what if Cornwall could have the world's first carbon-neutral space launch? And then even looking at net zero.

"It is low-cost to build a spaceport but we need to remember that it is a commercial project.

"We expect the project to be making revenue by year five of operations and then that money can go back into the community."

With just a few hours before the launch, Melissa added: "We're just really proud.

"People think that we're this big organisation but we're not - my core team is about six people - and they leave and breathe this county.

"We all walk our dogs on the beaches and drop our kids at school here.

"We're just so passionate about what this could mean for Cornwall. It will definitely be a massive moment.

"And then I'm going to sleep for a little bit."

Around 2,500 people are expected to attend the launch but it will also be live-streamed by Virgin Orbit on YouTube.

ITV News West Country will also be covering the launch live throughout the evening.