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UK spaceport shortlist unveiled

Britain has moved closer to ratifying its spaceport ambitions with eight locations identified as suitable for commercial spaceflights.

Speaking yesterday, July 15 at Farnborough Air Show’s Space Day, aviation minister Robert Goodwill and chief executive of the UK Space Agency Dr David Parker revealed findings of a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report highlighting airfields that could host a spaceport and the economic opportunities they could bring with them. 

The government wants an operation spaceport in Britain by 2018 that would provide a focus for regional and international investment for growth and establish the UK as a leader in the space market.

In a statement, business secretary Vince Cable said: ‘Space…already contributes £11.3bn 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.’

The eight coastal locations that could be used for a spaceport include:

  • Campbeltown Airport (Scotland)
  • Glasgow Prestwick Airport (Scotland)
  • Llanbedr Airport (Wales)
  • Newquay Cornwall Airport (England)
  • Kinloss Barracks (Scotland)
  • RAF Leuchars (Scotland)
  • RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland)
  • 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 general public.

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

Yesterday’s announcement follows the May 1, 2014 statement from government that broadly supported the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) Action Plan 2014 – 2030 and the National Space Security Policy (NSSP) that set out plans to achieve a £40bn UK space industry by 2030, plus a coherent approach to protecting the UK’s space assets.

Where do you think the best location would be for a UK spaceport? Let us know by clicking here.

Readers' comments (14)

  • I wonder how quickly the shortlist would shrink if the Scots choose independance at the referendum!

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  • When the Scots do choose independence the list shortens to 2 sites. One is in Wales and Celtic sentiment might eventually put that one in question. The other is in Cornwall which recently reasserted its language and so might go further in future. Let's call somebody's bluff and root for Ulster!

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  • UK is way far too far North for a space port - you need to launch from near the equator, i.e. at the maximum radius of the earth, to get the benefit of the earth’s rotation. So the space port would be better positioned on Cape York, in northern Queensland.

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  • I'm not too bothered where it is - just excited to see this happening at all! I'd get rid of HS2 to fund this in a heartbeat...

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  • I'm still waiting for every house in the UK to have a water meter, which was supposed to happen by the year 2000, so I won't hold my breath for a space port.

    This whole thing is the equivalent of the Sun's page three girl - just a bit of engineering cheese cake.

    Rob Brunswick

    All UK space missions were supposed to take off from Woomera in the 1950s, I distinctly remember from Journey Into Space. But if we are going to fly up, as opposed to rocket up, I don't see that is matters where you launch from. And it was explained on the radio that polar obits do not have to rocket up from the equator.

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  • @Rob
    Equator launch is not necessary for a suborbital launch. It has very limited benefit in this case as the velocity and mass are lower.

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  • Bit like the old 'cargo cults'! Build a big enough runway and the magic bird will appear. Pure pre election puff. Unless you count the rumoured US 'black' spaceplane, there's no user. Rockets with solid fuel boosters don't make good neighbours either.

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  • We used to have a spaceport at Spadeadam on the Northumberland/Cumbria border, where the Blue Streak rocket was designed and tested.

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  • First thought was that the obvious site would be 'RAF' Fairford. The runway there is of adequate length and in fact it was an emergency landing site for the space shuttle. It's only 10 miles or so from the UK Space Agency in Swindon and 2 or 3 miles from the A419(T) which links the M4 (East-West) and M6 (North-South). I guess the reason it's not on the list is that it's really a USAF forward base - B52s bombed Iraq from there - and is maintained, I believe, in 'warm' status.

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  • Surely the disused Concord runway at Filton would be the first choice? It is at the junction of two motorways and closer to London than any of your other proposals and they could take off over the Severn Eastury for safety.

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