The UK government backs making British commercial spaceflight operations a reality, the UK Space Agency announced today, after publication of a spaceport consultation. The Agency believes Britain will have Europe’s first spaceport.
The Government’s “widespread support” paves the way towards turning Britain into a leader in spaceflight operations, the UK Space Agency wrote. The aim is to have an operational spaceport by 2018.
In July 2014, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) made a shortlist of possible spaceport locations, which has today been updated. The shortlisted sites are now Newquay in England, Llanbedr in Wales, and Stornoway, Glasgow Prestwick and Campbeltown in Scotland. RAF Lauchars is a potential temporary facility.
An artist’s rendering of Britain’s, and possibly Europe’s, first spaceport. (Image: UK Space Agency)
For operational and defence reasons, two RAF airfields, Kinloss Barracks and Lossiemouth, have been ruled out.
The UK Space Agency said other locations can still be submitted if they fulfill the requirements.
The final decision of where the British spaceport will be located depends on several factors, the Agency said, the overriding one being that it limits danger and inconvenience to the general public.
Robert Goodwill, Aviation minister, said:
“I want Britain to lead the way in commercial spaceflight. Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology.”
“Today’s consultation response marks another step forward in our work to support this emerging industry, which will create jobs and drive economic growth.”
British companies are well placed to make the UK a leader in commercial space travel. (Image: Virgin Galactic)
Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said:
“Paving the way for a national spaceport is one of our biggest science achievements in this parliament. It greatly underscores the work of our space innovation and growth strategy to position the UK as a world-leader in this exciting arena that is expected to be worth up to £400 billion a year to the global economy by 2030.”
“Launching satellites and operating commercial space flights from our shores was once only confined to the depths of science fiction, but with the results of this consultation we are one step closer to making this a very real ability in the near future.”
In 2012, the UK Space Agency and the Department of Transport asked the CAA to review the operational environment and regulations to allow space travel to operate.
In 2014, the UK government launched its space innovation and growth strategy to 2030, which highlighted the economic benefits for the UK if it becomes a European focal point for commercial spaceflight pioneers and scientific research.
The Department of Transport now has to develop a detailed technical specification of spaceport requirements, before inviting proposals. This will be published later this year.
Citation: “Supporting Commercial Spaceplane Operations in the UK,” UK Department of Transport.
Video – UK Space Agency