The world’s biggest and deepest pool for testing the latest underwater technology, helping advance subsea robotics and even training astronauts is being planned in Cornwall.
Blue Abyss, a £150 million facility which has the support of British astronaut Major Tim Peake, will be the world’s leading extreme environment research, test and training centre serving the offshore energy, marine, defence and space sectors.
It is planned for the Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay, and is expected to create 160 jobs, pump £50m of build costs into Cornwall during its 18-month construction and generate £8m annually for the local economy.
Blue Abyss will appeal to a range of markets by simulating extreme environments in a safe and controlled setting and include the world’s first commercial astronaut training centre. Other markets span offshore energy, maritime defence, ocean ecology, human life sciences and commercial diving, and will help in the further development of remotely operated subsea robots and mini submersibles.
The centrepiece of Blue Abyss is an aquatic centre featuring a 50m by 40m stepped pool with a 50m deep shaft. The pool holds over 42,000 cubic metres of water – the equivalent of 17 Olympic size swimming pools or 168 million cups of tea – making it the largest and deepest indoor pool in the world.
Blue Abyss is the brainchild of ex-forces diving instructor and management consultant, John Vickers, and has the support of British astronaut Major Tim Peake, who sits on the Blue Abyss Advisory Board.
Tim Peake said: “I am proud to be part of the Blue Abyss team and I am delighted to see the project take such an important step forward with today’s announcement. Cornwall is the perfect home for Blue Abyss, a region with great potential for its space, aerospace and renewable energy ambitions. This project will join Goonhilly Earth Station and Spaceport Cornwall as significant national assets, creating a deep sea and space research, training and test facility, as well as fantastic educational resource, helping to widen our knowledge of how humans and technology can function in extreme environments, for the benefit of people and the planet.”
Dr Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut, said: “Astronauts and other space professionals will want to come from around the world to use the massive, yet controlled, environment to reduce risk in space. I can see plenty of international collaborations and business ventures starting life within Blue Abyss.”