Friday, 21 June 2024

UK spaceport shortlist

The UK’s bid to become Europe’s leading space nation took a giant leap forward this week when the government revealed eight locations under consideration to base Britain’s first spaceport.

Speaking at the Farnborough Air Show, aviation minister Robert Goodwill and Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency (UKSA) Dr David Parker unveiled the findings of a recent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report.

It highlighted eight possible airfields that could host a spaceport and the economic opportunities it could open up for the UK.

The government’s ambition is for a UK spaceport to open in 2018 – providing a focus for regional and international investment for growth and establishing the UK as a leader in the rapidly-expanding space market.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Space is big business for the UK. It already contributes £11.3 billion to the economy each year, supporting nearly 35,000 jobs.

“That’s why it’s important for us to prepare the UK for new launcher technology and take steps towards meeting our ambition of establishing the first British spaceport by 2018.

“Exploring the opportunities that commercial spaceflight presents, and potentially making strategic investments in this area, will support the growth of this thriving industry and underpin the economy of tomorrow, making the UK the place for space.”

Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill added: “In order to lead the way on commercial spaceflight, we will need to establish a spaceport that enables us to operate regular flights.

“The work published today has got the ball rolling – now we want to work with others to take forward this exciting project and have Britain’s first spaceport up and running by 2018.”

The eight coastal locations that could be used for a spaceport are Campbeltown Airport (Scotland), Glasgow Prestwick Airport (Scotland), Llanbedr Airport (Wales), Newquay Cornwall Airport (England), Kinloss Barracks (Scotland), RAF Leuchars (Scotland), RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland) and Stornorway Airport (Scotland).

The Department for Transport will consult on the criteria the CAA has identified that will make a location suitable for a spaceport.

In addition to meteorological, environmental and economic factors, these include an existing runway which is – or is capable of being extended to – over 3000m in length; the ability to accommodate dedicated segregated airspace to manage spaceflights safely; and a reasonable distance from densely populated areas in order to minimise impact on the uninvolved general public.

Following the consultation further work will be done to develop locations which remain on the shortlist. This would include seeking the views of local people and other stakeholders before any decisions are taken to proceed with any planned spaceport.

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