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Decision due on £10m Spaceport funding

Decision due on £10m Spaceport funding

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 2:02pm 22nd November 2019.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Cornwall Council will make a decision on whether to provide more than £10million towards Spaceport Cornwall next week.

Tuesday’s meeting of the full council will see councillors vote on whether to support the decision of the Cabinet to provide funding for the project.

The £10.32m of capital funding would be used for “airport infrastructure upgrades, launch support infrastructure and launch service activities”.

In a 48-page report to councillors it is set out that council officers believe that the project could have big benefits for Cornwall in terms of the economy and employment.

But the report has been redacted in places with some text blacked out.

spaceport - virgin orbit

The report states that Spaceport Cornwall would create 150 jobs by 2025 and says that these are 2.6 times more productive than the UK average. It states that the project would add £200m Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy.

Under the proposals Spaceport Cornwall would be a horizontal launch site with the initial plans to be used for the launch of small satellites.

This works with the satellites being attached to rockets which are launched from adapted aircraft which would take off from the spaceport at Newquay Airport.

Cornwall Council has signed a memorandum of understanding with Virgin Orbit which would operate its European operations from Spaceport Cornwall.

If all licenses and legislation are processed as expected the first launch could take place from Spaceport Cornwall in 2021. It is expected that over the first five years of the project it would reach a point of having eight launches a year.

The project has been criticised by some campaigners who say that it goes against the council’s declaration of a climate emergency earlier this year and the efforts being made to reduce carbon emissions.

Virgin Orbit spaceport satellites

When the funding proposal went to Cabinet there was a divide among the senior members with some voting against it due to their concerns about the environmental impact.

The council states that it is “committed to its corporate responsibilities regarding climate change” and says that an independent carbon impact assessment it commissioned from Exeter University found that Virgin Orbit’s operations would add 0.1% to Cornwall’s carbon production.

The report adds: “However, in line with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the approval of the Climate Emergency Action Plan at Cabinet in July 2019, the project will adopt a strategy of carbon offsetting via sequestration.

"An amount of £50,000 is included in the budget in order to ensure that mitigations above and beyond the maximum expected impacts are built into the proposal.

"This amount will be used to initiate the creation of a new forest in Cornwall. Beyond the initial set up phase, satellite launch operators such as Virgin Orbit will be required to meet the carbon costs of operations through their launch fees.

"This will provide an ongoing revenue stream to fund the offset of Spaceport Cornwall’s carbon impact in line with the council’s vision to be working towards carbon neutrality.”

Cornwall Council’s funding is part of a £20m investment package which includes £7.85m from the UK Space Agency and £2.5m from Virgin Orbit.

Cornwall Council is due to meet on Tuesday (November 26th) at County Hall in Truro.

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