Blue Abyss Centre to Be Built at RAF Henlow Site

Blue Abyss, the world’s first commercial space and deep sea centre, will be developed at Royal Air Force (RAF) base site in Bedfordshire. 

A launch event will be held at Cranfield University today (27 June), attended by representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA), Romanian cosmonaut Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, Blue Abyss non-executive director, and representatives from central and local government.

The GBP 120 million Blue Abyss will form the heart of a vision by Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) to create a science, innovation and technology park to regenerate the site of RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire, which is due to close by 2020.

The centre 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.

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.


The construction of the centre is planned to start at the end of the year, and it is expected to be operational in 2019, bringing about 160 new jobs.

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.

Blue Abyss chief executive John Vickers said: “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 development of the centre was announced earlier this year, when Celia Anderson from the Blue Abyss team said: “There is huge pressure on offshore wind to bring down its costs and the companies involved are looking at every way to achieve that. Having a facility like Blue Abyss within easy travel distance of the east coast, with its huge potential to support innovation, fits into achieving these targets. Our clients can simulate the ROV installation of J tubes and connecting cables, changing bearings at the base of a turbine tower… The list is endless.”

The Blue Abyss has been designed by London’s Gherkin architect Robin Partington.