The prospect of the Goonhilly Earth Station becoming a global player in the future of space exploration moved a step closer last week following a meeting in Westminster.
West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas introduced Goonhilly’s chief scientist, Matt Cosby, to the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, when they were able to talk about plans to upgrade the station’s largest antenna so that it is suitable for deep space communications.
Mr Cosby says that a proposed £8.4 million upgrade, which would be funded by Growth Deal money through Cornwall’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), would enable the antenna to support human flights around the Moon.
Goonhilly is currently working with the LEP and the UK Space Agency to secure the project and the meeting with Mr Johnson gave Mr Thomas and Mr Cosby the chance to press home the case for an antenna upgrade when they stressed the fact that the project would not require funding by the Government or the UK Space Agency.
“We believe this upgrade has the potential to add significantly to the prospects for space sector growth both regionally and nationally,” said Mr Cosby.
“It would help generate a diverse supply chain in the region that will be further enhanced by the development of a spaceport at Newquay.
“The upgrade could also support significant commercial exploration flights, potentially offering commercial returns on the Growth Deal investment within as little as two years.”
Mr Cosby added that as well as enabling the Goonhilly Station to become a base for deep space communications, the upgraded antenna could also be used for robotics missions, Space Situation Awareness and to help track spacecraft that travel over the UK.
Mr Thomas said the Deep Space Communications project was “hugely exciting” and could potentially make a big impact on the local economy if it goes ahead.
“Upgrading the antenna is a big deal for West Cornwall and the UK,” he said.
“Skilled jobs created and a reputation as a global player in the space sector are up for grabs and we should seize the opportunity. Everyone of us relies on this technology in some way or another and Goonhilly Earth Station is an important part of this modern age.”
PICTURE CAPTION: From left, West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas, Matt Cosby, chief scientist at Goonhilly Earth Station and Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.