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GLOBAL OUTLOOK COVER STORY


Origin’s West Texas launch facility. Since 2015, a jump in venture


and angel investment into space start-ups “was largely driven by [these] billionaire super angels”, says Ms Christensen. “You’ve got a very risk-tolerant capital looking for transformative businesses and growth in space.”


Technological advancement Along with advancements in geospa- tial intelligence, Earth observations and climate change monitoring from space technology, newly devel- oped launch capabilities are increas- ing the prospect of spaceport devel- opment globally. Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit


has developed a novel ‘horizontal’ air launch system, where rockets holding satellites are launched from the wing of a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet. After its first suc- cessful launch in January, where it took off and landed at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, Virgin Orbit hopes to use its novel launch technique from airports around the world. “A new gateway to space has just


sprung open,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a statement after the launch. One location from which Virgin


Orbit will launch is Newquay air- port, in Cornwall at the southern- most tip of the UK, which at time of publication was set to host the G7 summit.


Melissa Thorpe, interim head of


Spaceport Cornwall, tells fDi that the ambition of the spaceport is to grow the local skills base and create well paid jobs in a region currently dependent on traditional sectors such as tourism. “We aim to inspire a whole generation in Cornwall,” she says. “It still blows me away how excited this gets people and that translates to businesses wanting to move to Cornwall or start up along- side a launch.” She says Spaceport Cornwall


will use the G7 conference to “chal- lenge outdated perceptions” of the county and to showcase internation- ally its integrated spaceport, which is expected to begin launch in sum- mer 2022. It is expected to create 150 direct jobs and a further 240 jobs in the supply chain and ancil- lary services. Ms Thorpe expects about 80 direct


jobs to be filled locally, admitting tal- ent will have to be attracted from


June/July 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


outside Cornwall until the skills base grows. According to Ray Stott, a co- founder and consultant at SpaceSpecialists, which provides con- sulting, recruitment and training for the global space industry, there is a significant skills shortage for the industry worldwide.


Regulatory framework Since implementing its space pro- gramme in 2017, the UK has pushed forward the development of several other spaceports, including in Wales and Scotland, as part of plans to increase its share of the global space economy to 10% by 2030. In May, regulations were pushed through parliament to enable future satellites and rockets to be launched from UK soil. “The key thing for launch is the


regulatory environment,” says Nick Shave, the chair of UKspace, the trade association for the UK space industry. “The licensing of launch operators and the eventual satellites that are going to be launched has to be attractive and competitive com- pared to other nations.” Elsewhere, Virgin Orbit is devel-


oping a horizontal launch site at Oita airport in western Japan, and in April reached an agreement with Brazil to bring launch capability to the Alcântara Launch Centre. “Alcântara is one of the most


ideal places in the world for launch- ing rockets,” said Carlos Moura, the president of Brazil’s space agency AEB, in a statement, stressing that its location on the north-eastern coast and close to the equator enables sat- ellites to be launched more cheaply and effectively. It is a positive development for


Brazil, which has been attempting for decades to launch rockets from Alcântara. In 2003, an accidental explosion during a launch led to the death of 21 engineers and techni- cians at the site. “When we put the centre into operation, we will over- come a historic challenge for the programme, which means a commit- ment to Brazil and the world com- munity towards ever greater achieve- ments for humanity,” said Mr Moura.


African ambitions Meanwhile in Africa, several space- ports with infrastructure built dur- ing the colonial era have become underused due to years of underin- vestment, including the Hammaguir Test Centre in Algeria, which has


been inactive since it was employed by France in the 1960s. But as space- port proposals have proliferated globally, there are encouraging signs for Africa’s space industry. In February, Turkey announced


plans to invest $350m into a space- port in Somalia as part of its $1bn Moon mission. Through interna- tional cooperation, Turkey hopes to make its first moon landing in 2023, the same year it celebrates its centennial. And in Kenya, site of the currently inactive Broglio Space Centre, jointly developed by NASA and Italy in the 1960s, negotiations between the Kenyan and Italian gov- ernments are giving hope that it will be reinstated. “These projects have set the prec-


edent for what is possible,” says Temidayo Oniosun, managing direc- tor of Space in Africa, a media, ana- lytics and consulting company focused on the space and satellite industry on the continent. Though most African spaceports are no longer in operation, Mr Oniosun believes that with minimal invest- ment they could be revived and pro- vide essential economic develop- ment opportunities. “There are so many spaceports


across the continent. Even though they are no longer working, with lit- tle investment they could rebound, providing opportunities for govern- ment revenue, private companies and the communities that surround them to thrive again,” he says.


Demand limitations Not everyone believes many more spaceports are needed. Kaitlyn Johnson, deputy director of the CSIS Aerospace Security Project, says that there is a limit to what spaceports can provide, particularly given that they rely heavily on the success of launch companies that use their facilities. “I think there is a cap. We could


use a couple more launch sites around the world but not all of these commercial satellite companies are going to be successful. I think some of these launch sites, either in pro- duction or plans, will just fall through,” she adds. One proposed spaceport aiming


to avoid these pitfalls is planned in Michigan, US, and will focus on the servicing of LEO and middle-earth orbit (MEO) launches. “Ours is a little different from


other spaceports,” says Gavin Brown, the executive director of the


21


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