CORNWALL is set to hold Europe’s first spaceport – providing tourist flights to space and 90-minute journeys to Australia.
The system, which is currently undergoing tests in the US, could be underway in the early 2020s.
The service based in Newquay, will be available to fee-paying passengers who will be able to experience feeling weightlessness.
Tourists on board will also be able to see the curvature of the Earth, while on the horizontal launch.
British astronaut Tim Peake, 47, said: “For Britain to be the first spaceport in Europe to be able to offer that service because we have the legislation in place, because we’ve sorted out our infrastructure, that will be huge.”
Major Peake believes space tourism will soon no longer be just for the rich.
He added: “It’s a very exciting time right now. Space tourism can come under some criticism as a sport for the rich but that’s how a lot of things start, that’s how aviation started.”
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The UK Space Agency has offered up £7.85million, while Cornwall Council have opted to provide up to £12 million in funding – subject to approval by full council.
And Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has signed an agreement to use Spaceport Cornwall as the site for its LauncherOne system and Cosmic Girl aircraft.
A spaceport is also planned in the Scottish Highlands, and Virgin Atlantic is set to operate the tourist flights.
The UK Government is working with the United States to establish the necessary technical and legal safeguards.
Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said: “We are very proud to play a role in bringing space launch back to Britain – with a revolutionary new level of flexibility and responsiveness.
Julian German, Leader of Cornwall Council, said: “Cornwall is the birthplace of innovation and technology and space is a key part of a 21st century economy.
“With assets like Spaceport Cornwall, world-class mission control facilities at Goonhilly Earth Station and superb digital connectivity, Cornwall can play a vital role in the growth of the global space economy.”
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Andrew Kuh from the UK’s Space Agency said: “The Space Industry Act 2018 has already put in place the legal framework.
“We’re hoping to have the right regulations in place so that we could launch from Britain.”
Brit astronaut Tim Peake praised the new spaceport, classing it as ‘incredibly important’[/caption]
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