Window on the stars

The British Isles are full of little nuggets which surprise you. With Neil Armstrong’s famous words rattling round my brain I went to Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall for the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing.

The station received that transmission from space and beamed it around Europe. If it hadn’t been for Arthur, one of the largest radio telescopes, Europe would have missed it. Arthur features in these drone shots I took on the day. It is the grey telescope with all the metal braces round the back.

I didn’t quite appreciate just how big the dishes are until I tried to fly round one and film it. The largest are 30 metres or more in diameter.

Near Helston on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall it was once the largest array of communication dishes in the world. It had 60 dishes in total and undersea cable links. It is still very much active and is part of the pitch to establish Cornwall as a part of the consortium to launch and track satellites.

Arthur now has the status of a listed building but don’t be fooled into thinking Goonhilly is a relic. It is anything but. It is a very active science centre and its communications role is still very much alive and will build in the future as Cornwall puts itself on the map as part of the satellite project.

Virgin Orbit is just down the road at Newquay Airport where a system to launch rockets from the wing of ex-Virgin Atlantic 747s is being developed.

If rockets with satellite payloads are launched from 35,000 feet they can be much smaller and more cost effective. It saves travelling upwards 6 miles and accelerating to 400 mph.