Young space enthusiasts will be taken on voyage of discovery this weekend as Goonhilly Earth Station celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Families will be able to find out more about space and how scientists use ‘Space for Good’, while scientists from the University of Exeter will share their knowledge and expertise about space and the environment at the Goonhilly 60 event.

It will also give people of all ages the chance to get hands-on with space science and exploration, alongside some of the world’s foremost experts from the Penryn Campus.

The University of Exeter will be joined by colleagues from the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SWCoESA) at the event to give hands-on activities, talks and information to allow visitors to step into space and explore the galaxies.

This part of the event takes place in the Visitor Centre from 1pm to 6pm this Saturday (July 23), as part of the wider festival that runs until 1am with live music through the evening. 

Entry is by ticket only from

Professor David Hosken, from the University of Exeter, said: “We are delighted to be taking part in this wonderful community event. We know that so many people of all ages have instinctive curiosity towards space, and to be able to demonstrate such a wide array of our research and work to the people of Cornwall helps nurture that passion.

“Goonhilly is a fantastic resource to have on our doorstep and the university is proud to support its endeavours and celebrate its history as Spaceport Cornwall, and other ventures, come to the forefront of the UK's space initiatives."

The University of Exeter will run a number of activities and discussions over the course of the celebrations. They include a water clarity demonstration using a mini-Secchi disk – which was invented in the 19th century, but is still used for satellite validation of water transparency products. There will also be an introduction to Smartfins and their use in satellites looking at sea surface temperatures, and a short film showing work on remote sensing research.


The first antenna at Goonhilly, Arthur Picture: Mike Peel

The first antenna at Goonhilly, Arthur Picture: Mike Peel

The university’s world-leading astrophysicists will also run a host of activities around exoplanets and the farther reaches of the universe, including searching for exoplanets using the “transit method” by looking for dips in brightness of stars.

They will give a tour of some of the exoplanets that have been discovered with accurate densities and their sizes to scale, asking visitors to decide whether they are terrestrial and rocky, or a gas giant planet.

The stand will also showcase the work conducted for the airspace digital twin project. This project uses machine learning to predict likelihoods and outcomes quickly and cost-effectively to help in decision making, as well as being used for effective management of buildings, manufacturing plant, airspace, drone deliveries, warehousing and energy networks.

Professor Karen Hudson-Edwards will be taking part in a panel discussion called ‘Going to Space Shouldn’t Cost the Earth’ at the event, from 1pm to 2pm.

Meanwhile the team from the SWCoESA will also give demonstrations and have hands-on activities to highlight their work, including VR headsets with a demonstration from the Satellite Applications Catapult about how a satellite works; a large TV screen with augmented reality rockets and satellites accessed via QR codes; and some origami making activities and paper plane making.

Goonhilly Earth Station was opened in 1962 and at one time was the largest satellite earth station in the world. Its first dish, Antenna One (dubbed "Arthur"), was built the same year, to link with the satellite Telstar.

On July 11, 1962 engineers at Goonhilly beamed TV signals from Arthur up to Telstar, which then retransmitted the live video signals to a ground station in the USA – marking the start of a revolution in global telecommunications.

In September 2006 BT announced it was to shut down satellite operations at Goonhilly in 2008. The site is now owned by Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd under a 999-year lease from BT Group, with part of it used as a space science centre, and the company is a partner in the Spaceport Cornwall bid for Cornwall Airport Newquay.