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As Neil Armstrong made one giant leap for mankind in July 1969, TV watchers in the UK sat captivated by this triumph of technology, unaware that the pictures they were watching were being transmitted via a giant satellite dish from Goonhilly Earth Station, discreetly nestled on Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula.
Antenna 1, affectionately known as Arthur, was the world’s first parabolic communications antenna. Built in 1962 to receive the first transatlantic communications from the orbiting satellite Telstar, it has since brought major broadcast events such as the first ever coloured TV picture, several Olympic Games and the most recent Royal Wedding to the screens of viewers across Britain.

In 2008 ‘Arthur’ and the other 60 satellites that make up Goonhilly Earth Station, were to be decommissioned and the site demolished and repurposed. More recently, the iconic Goonhilly Earth Station was eventually purchased from British Telecom (BT) in 2014 by SME, Goonhilly Earth Station Limited (GES Ltd).

We met with Piran Trezise, Operations Director at GES Ltd to learn how the site’s colourful story has developed since it came under new ownership.

“We wanted to ensure that Goonhilly remained at the forefront of technology and one of the ways that we have done this is by repurposing some of our larger antennas for research and development projects in radio astronomy and adapting them for deep space mission communications. We’ve also expanded Goonhilly’s satellite communications offering to our clients to include TT & C (Tracking, Tele-command and Control) services which is seen as a gold standard for teleports. We are delighted to be working with some of the world’s major satellite operators since taking on the ownership of Goonhilly and to be entrusted with providing these services you need to be able to offer quality assets and a very skilled & reliable engineering workforce.”

Despite its SME status, GES Ltd has established relationships with a broad network of some of the UK’s most reputable educational institutes. Its research and development in radio astronomy involves collaboration with a consortium of universities including Oxford University, Durham University, Manchester University, Hertfordshire University Leeds University and Southampton University.

“Our network is a constantly expanding; we also host the South West Centre of Excellence on behalf of the Satellite Applications Catapult whose partners include Plymouth Marine Labs, University of Exeter, Falmouth University, The Met Office and the Rothamsted Institute. By bringing key institutes together in one place it creates a huge opportunity for knowledge exchange with Industry and it assists advancing to market development opportunities.”

Spread across a 164 acre, GES Ltd, having made huge progress since taking over the site, has only begun to tap into the site’s vast potential. Goonhilly now has Enterprise Zone Status, an accolade that’s unique to Cornwall’s Spacetech industry which offers businesses enhanced capital allowances, development opportunities and 100% business rate relief, amongst a plethora of other benefits design to help businesses grow.

A recent funding announcement made by the UK Space Agency will also see the region’s Spacetech industry benefit from £50,000 of funding for an incubation space hosted at Goonhilly. “The funding will enable SME’s with potential in the sector to base themselves here (at Goonhilly), to grow and engage with our assets which will hopefully lead to the growth of the sector overall whilst increasing the employment within Cornwall as well.”

The work being carried out by GES Ltd is industry leading. Facilitated by some of the fastest synchronous fibre broadband connectivity in the world, it is leading a number of pioneering projects using satellite communications and data capture.

“When it comes to our work with universities where they are making advances in science and technology for their scientific project, there are also practical applications that we can adapt for our Antennas at Goonhilly for use in the commercial world.”

Piran Trezise, Operations Director at GES Ltd.

An example of this collaboration is the Merlin (pathfinder project to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) which we are working on with our partner universities. This and the SKA will result in a broad spectrum of research and development as well as future employment opportunities.” Envisaging and innovating towards the technology of tomorrow is the every day at GES Ltd. The work that takes place on the GES Ltd site is the antithesis of its remote and unspoilt surroundings. It is at the forefront of innovation in satellite and space communications and playing a crucial role in broadening our understanding of deep space, yet the site still has so much to offer. Now in its third year of ownership GES Ltd has invested heavily in Goonhilly and understands its offering, indicating that the next few years are set to be very exciting for the company and for Spacetech in Cornwall.

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