August 2, 2021

First space satellite launched from Newquay by Virgin Orbit will have a Cornish name

The first satellite to be launched into space from Newquay will be Cornish, Virgin Orbit has vowed.

Kernow Sat 1 could be launched from Cornwall Newquay Airport within the next 12 to 18 months with a view to carry out earth science such as measuring ocean plastic pollution or mapping tree planting and deforestation or coastal erosion.

William Pomerantz, vice-president special projects with Virgin Orbit, said bringing Virgin Orbit to Cornwall was to bring satellite launching capabilities to parts of the world where they are none.

Mr Pomerantz said Newquay and Cornwall were an obvious choice for the company because the UK already has a strong industry of small satellite manufacturing but had had to rely on its membership of the EU to launch its satellites out of Kourou in French Guyana.

“When you give that local opportunity to a local community it brings plenty of community, science and business benefits to the area,” he said. “It helps inspires school children to go into tech, science and space industries and inspires decision makers too to create bespoke applications that are suited for local needs.”

He added: “Kernow Sat could be one year from now. We have done our first Virgin Orbit launch test in California earlier this year and now we want to do the same in the UK and in Cornwall in particular.”




Mr Pomerantz insisted that Kernow Sat 1 would be designed by scientists and researchers from universities in the Duchy, with input from local schoolchildren, students and businesses with ocean health and earth science a strong focus for the scientific data instruments fitted on board Kernow Sat 1.

“Ocean plastic pollution or coastal erosion are issues that are dear to everyone in Cornwall. Everyone here is an environmentalist. It’s part of the fibre of the Cornish people. People are informed, passionate about these issues for reasons of the heart or for business reasons. It drives their pride, their creativity.”

He said that data from Kernow Sat 1 would be used to tackle local environmental issues and be held as an exemplar for best practice for other parts of the UK, Europe and the world, while fostering a space industry in Cornwall, around Newquay’s Aerohub and Goonhilly Earth Station on the Lizard.

Meanwhile a full scale launcher – similar to the one used by Virgin Orbit to send small satellites into orbit from under the wing of a customised Boeing 747, is in situ at Cornwall Airport Newquay where it will stay in place for several months in a bid to encourage local schools to visit and be inspired.




While on a visit to Newquay airport ahead of the G7 Summit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Government funding will be used for the research, design and build of Kernow Sat 1.

The research will be undertaken by the University of Exeter who will be running a Think Tank with experts in the marine field to establish the exact data requirements to effectively research and implement activities surrounding the health of Cornwall’s coasts and associated economy.

The build will be undertaken in collaboration with Oregon State University’s Open Source CubeSat and KISPE Space, who will share expertise and knowledge with Spaceport Cornwall’s Outreach Team. The team will work alongside Truro and Penwith College, using their new Space Technology Training programme to build the Kernow Sat 1 in Cornwall.

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, welcomed the news, saying: “We are thrilled that this payload could be part of the first launch from Spaceport Cornwall. Engaging with the community and protecting the environment through Earth Observation are an integral part of Spaceport’s mission and we hope to create a framework for community launches, helping influence local policy through key data collection.”




Ian Annett, deputy CEO of UK Space Agency, added: “Space-based technology is at the heart of national and global efforts to understand and minimise the effects of climate change. From next year small satellites such as Kernow Sat 1 will launch from UK spaceports and play a vital role in driving forward the UK’s efforts to protect our environment and build back greener from the pandemic.

“Kernow Sat 1 is a hugely exciting project. It will not only help improve the environment but also inspire communities about the importance of space, demonstrate the strong UK academic interest and is an exemplar of how space is becoming increasingly accessible to help shape a better future for everyone.”

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