A £150m project to build the world’s biggest and deepest pool for testing underwater technology and training astronauts is being planned for Cornwall.
The Blue Abyss project, which is supported by British astronaut Tim Peake, has been proposed for the Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay.
Construction of the extreme environment research facility is expected to cost £50m and take 18 months.
The centrepiece of Blue Abyss would be an aquatic centre featuring a 50m by 40m steeped pool with a 50m deep shaft. The pool would hold over 42,000 cu m of water, the equivalent of 17 Olympic size swimming pools.
The brainchild of ex-forces diving instructor and management consultant John Vickers, the pool would also be aimed at the offshore energy, maritime defence, ocean ecology, human life sciences and commercial diving markets, and help in the development of remotely operated subsea robots and mini submersibles.
Blue Abyss is in negotiation with Cornwall Council to acquire four adjacent plots on the Aerohub Business Park, next to Cornwall Airport Newquay. The 10-acre site would house the pool, astronaut training centre, human performance centre, hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers, microgravity suite, training centre with six classrooms, workshops, onsite catering and accommodation facilities.
The project is being designed by architect Robin Partington and Blue Abyss is in the process of applying for planning permission at the Aerohub Enterprise Zone. If it is given the green light, Blue Abyss could open in 2023.
Vickers said: “We’re planning a globally unique facility with a wide range of potential uses that tap into so many of the industries that Cornwall and the South West are known for. Blue abyss will be a huge research asset for aerospace, offshore energy, underwater robotics, human physiology, defence, leisure and marine industries, and a fantastic education centre for children and university students.”
Tim Peake added: “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.”