TAMPA, Fla. — Spaceport Cornwall, which provided the runway for Virgin Orbit’s failed launch from the U.K. in January, opened a new operations facility April 27 to attract more businesses in the wake of its flagship customer’s bankruptcy.
According to Spaceport Cornwall, part of the Cornwall Airport Newquay in southwestern England, 10 organizations ranging from satellite operators to software providers are interested in moving into the Space Systems Operations Facility (SSOF) in the coming weeks.
They are Avanti Communications, Goonhilly, KISPE, D-Orbit, Exobotics, Expleo, Geospatial Ventures, Satellite Applications Catapult, Space Skills Alliance, and Intelligent AI.
The SSOF houses a clean room, making Spaceport Cornwall the only site in the U.K. where a satellite could be built, integrated, and launched.
The building sits alongside the Space Systems Integration Facility that Virgin Orbit had used to integrate satellites into its LauncherOne air-launch system, which failed to reach orbit Jan. 9 in the first-ever orbital mission from British soil.
Three months later, U.S.-based Virgin Orbit collapsed into Chapter 11 restructuring as it struggled to pay its bills, despite previously completing four successful consecutive launches from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California between January 2021 and July 2022.
“Over the last 18 months going into the [U.K.] launch campaign, we were intrinsically linked with Virgin Orbit, and everybody saw us as one,” Spaceport Cornwall head Melissa Quinn told SpaceNews in an interview.
“And so when we saw what happened with Virgin Orbit, everybody just assumed that the same happened to us. But actually, the project was always intended to be multi-user, and to be a wider cluster.
While launch “was definitely a catalyst and magnet to attract business to the site,” she said it was always meant to be “the cherry on top of all the other activity that we’re doing.”
Virgin Orbit had also only planned to launch once or twice a year from Spaceport Cornwall in the near term, she said. That leaves a lot of room for other companies to take advantage of the first-of-its-kind spaceport license Spaceport Cornwall secured in November.
However, Quinn said U.S.-based Sierra Nevada Corporation, Canada’s Space Engine Systems, and other launch companies looking to use its site are still years away from operations.
Despite its financial troubles, she said that makes it likely that LauncherOne will be behind the next launch out of Spaceport Cornwall.
Virgin Orbit said April 19 that it could return LauncherOne to flight this year after pinning the January failure on a dislodged fuel filter. The company hopes to complete a sale of its business in May.
Spaceport Cornwall’s operations and integration facilities are part of a £5.6 million ($7 million) government-funded project to drive inward investment to the region.