RAF Henlow confirmed as the home of Blue Abyss!

RAF Henlow has been formally announced as the home of Blue Abyss – the world’s first commercial space and deep sea centre with a 50m deep pool. Confirmation of its location is another step forward in the Blue Abyss journey and exciting news for all divers and lovers of space exploration and travel.

RAF Henlow chosen for Blue Abyss – What the Press Release Says:

Blue Abyss announces the world’s first commercial space and deep sea centre to be developed at RAF Henlow.

Blue Abyss Press Release - Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu

Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu

Romanian cosmonaut Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, Blue Abyss non-executive director and ambassador to the Russian Space Agency, joins Blue Abyss chief executive John Vickers at the announcement, just days after development of the UK space industry featured large in the Queen’s Speech.

Blue Abyss, the world’s first commercial deep sea to space research, training and test centre, is at the centre of a multi-million-pound regeneration vision to develop a science, innovation and technology park on part of a soon-to-close RAF base site in Bedfordshire.

The Blue Abyss team is working with Central Bedfordshire Council to create the £120m facility, designed by London’s Gherkin architect Robin Partington, on part of the RAF Henlow site, which is due to close by 2020.

Blue Abyss will house the world’s biggest 50m deep pool, a hotel, an astronaut training centre including parabolic flight capability, hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers and a human performance centre to enable divers, astronauts and top athletes to perform at the peak of their potential.

Plans include a conference theatre and training rooms, and a 120-bed hotel.

Blue Abyss will fulfill a crucial role in the growth of the UK’s space industry, highlighted by the government in the Queen’s Speech last week.

It hopes to start building at the end of the year to start operating in 2019, bringing about 160 new jobs.

The Blue Abyss team plans to reuse some facilities at RAF Henlow, including a centrifuge base already installed at the site for its long-arm human centrifuge for high-G astronaut training.

Blue Abyss will provide an arena for pioneering research and development into extreme environments, which in turn will enable better human performance in deep sea and space environments by encouraging innovation.

The research and development will help to reduce risk, test operational procedures, improve performance and aid exploration in these environments.

The centre will also offer a wide range of experiential ‘space preparation’ packages for groups and individuals.

These packages will run alongside a ground-breaking commercial astronaut training programme to allow ordinary people to undergo a full astronaut training programme ready for the wave of commercial spaceflight opportunities coming to market.

Go Freediving - Blue Abyss and DiveRAID Partnership - john-vickers


Blue Abyss chief executive John Vickers said its aim was to transform human life science research and performance training in extreme environments, focusing on advanced commercial diving skills, underwater and space robotics, human spaceflight preparation, professional athlete fitness and healthcare from a better understanding of human physiology under extreme conditions.

Blue Abyss’ education outreach programme and collaboration with universities will help shape a new generation of scientists and engineers, working with primary schools through to post-graduate and post-doctorate researchers.

“RAF Henlow provides the ideal site for Blue Abyss. The market is waiting for this facility – space tourism, the UK space programme and the demand for experiential packages.

“Having a centrifuge base already there is an important feature because it’s the most expensive and difficult element of the equipment to install.

“Being part of something bigger, working closely with a proactive council in its enabling and planning capacity and bringing jobs to the area, means we can make the incredibly exciting facilities for the industries we will serve a reality, for UK plc and increase the profile of space travel, space adventure and tourism, deep-sea and offshore energy innovation.

“The government highlighted in the Queen’s Speech how important the space industry is for UK plc. It wants to make the UK the most attractive place in Europe for commercial spaceflight to help increase the UK share of the global space economy to 10% by 2030.”

Go Freediving - Simon Evetts - Blue Abyss WorkshopProfessor Simon Evetts, Blue Abyss Space Operations Director, said: “By being progressive and investing in a sector that has grown throughout the recent economic downturn, we not only ensure our space sector remains vibrant when the UK leaves the EU, but we also provide the UK itself with a high-growth, innovative field of endeavour to help underpin our future.”

Offshore technology for the oil & gas and renewables industries will be tested in the pool, and hyperbaric chambers, providing a vital role in bringing new robotic and human aid technologies to market.

Blue Abyss will be working with world-leading companies and academic institutions to develop the UK’s reputation and status as an industrial nation.

The centre’s Kuehnegger Human Performance Centre will house specialist diver, astronaut and athlete research and development facilities. The centre will include a microgravity simulation suite with a traversable, full-body suspension system plus additional hypobaric chambers to facilitate hypoxia and altitude training, rehabilitation and physiological studies.

“Our education provision will be vital to give students from across the UK and the world the opportunity to work on real-world projects with internationally renowned academics that they would not have had access to otherwise,” Mr Vickers said.

“Blue Abyss will provide a crucial offering to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) agenda in the UK by providing a truly exciting arena for science to be taught and experienced.”

Cllr James Jamieson, Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said:

“The council welcomes the proposals to bring Blue Abyss to the Henlow site as a central part of a comprehensive mixed use regeneration vision.

“The proposal of a science, innovation and technology park at Henlow with Blue Abyss as a key investor will secure many high-tech jobs for the local area and beyond and ensure sustainable regeneration of this former RAF site.

Blue Abyss Press Release

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) representing the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and central government, are exploring opportunities to work in partnership with Central Bedfordshire to secure the sustainable redevelopment of the Henlow RAF site.

Central Bedfordshire is pleased to be working in partnership with Blue Abyss to bring these exciting, innovative proposals to fruition within central Bedfordshire.”

The event at Cranfield will be sponsored by Northumbria University, which has a burgeoning aerospace medicine and rehabilitation laboratory, and aims to conduct world leading research in the fields of aviation medicine, space medicine, and terrestrial healthcare/rehabilitation.

Scientists at the university are also working with the University of Edinburgh to develop a prototype engine based on solid-to-vapour transformation, which could be used for harvesting energy on the surface of Mars and other extreme environments.

Professor Greta Defeyter, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Strategic Planning & Engagement, said: “Northumbria University, Newcastle, is committed to working in partnership and sees this as essential to support its ambition as a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. As such, the University is delighted to be supporting Blue Abyss through their official launch.”

Dr Nick Caplan, Associate Professor of Musculoskeletal Health, added “At Northumbria, we have been developing human spaceflight related activities for nearly 10 years within the Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory.

“We understand the challenges in accessing space environments for research and development, and Blue Abyss will soon be able to provide these. We are excited about what the future holds for human spaceflight research in the UK, and here at Northumbria University, as we build a strong relationship with Blue Abyss.”

So why was RAF Henlow chosen for Blue Abyss?

As well as being a prime site, perfect for regeneration and job creation, and already coming to the end of it’s natural life, having a centrifuge base already is a massive benefit as it is one of the most expensive and difficult element of the equipment to install. The combination of these and many other factors make RAF Henlow an obvious choice for this state of the art facility.

Why this announcement is so important

With Brexit and a recent government election and other delays, this phenomenal project has faced some fierce obstacles. However, the strength of project and the overwhelming global interest in the future of space travel and deep sea exploration has ensured and more importantly secured Blue Abyss’s position as a leading force. With this in mind today’s Blue Abyss press release has announced to the world that with unprecedented international collaborative support Blue Abyss is ready to take another step forward in making it’s vision a reality. RAF Henlow is a superb location and complements the vision of Blue Abyss perfectly.

My thoughts

This latest Blue Abyss press release follows years of preparation and planning. There have been workshops, projects such as  Vision 2020 and so much more. I have been thrilled to be involved as a consultant from the start and cannot wait for the project to move forward to the next phase. Seeing RAF Henlow chosen for Blue Abyss, has cemented it’s future as a leading state of the art venue and training facility for future freedivers, not only from the UK, but globally.

Exciting times for freediving in the UK!!

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