Cornwall Council has announced that the county will be home to Europe’s first horizontal launch spaceport, with funding secured from the UK Space Agency.

The council would provide up to £12 million, with the UK Space Agency providing a further £7.85 million.

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.”

The funding would allow the spaceport to work with US launch operator Virgin Orbit to develop facilities and operation capabilities that would enable the launch of small satellites by 2020.

Virgin Orbit are also investing £2.5 million, with a further contribution of £0.5 million coming from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Mark Duddridge, chairman of the LEP, said: “This announcement is the culmination of five years’ hard work and will be transformative for Cornwall.

“It puts us and the UK at the heart of the international satellite launch market, offering affordable access to space, and will inspire a generation.

“I am excited to announce that today the LEP have committed a further £0.5m to the funding package as a Growth Deal investment into Spaceport Infrastructure.”

The spaceport could create up top 150 new jobs, as well as enabling the UK to compete for a share on the global space market.

It is hoped that launching satellites from the UK will be an opportunity to inspire children and young people to take up careers in science, engineering or even as space entrepreneurs.

Business secretary Greg Clark MP said: “Space is not only about pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, it is a rapidly growing sector of our economy which plays a key role in our modern industrial strategy, promotes global Britain and ensures our national security.

“These exciting plans from Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit to make horizontal launch a reality from Cornwall will help further our position as a leader in the New Space Age.”

The UK Government is working with the United States to establish the necessary safeguards for US space launch vehicle operations from UK launch sites.

The US State Department has already approved a technical assistance agreement allowing detailed technical discussions and strategic planning to commence.

This would allow Virgin Orbit, to operate its LauncherOne system and Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft from Cornwall Airport Newquay.

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said: “We are very proud to play a role in bringing space launch back to Britain.

“The Virgin Orbit team has now demonstrated every major assembly of our LauncherOne system and are within arm’s reach of bringing it to the UK.”