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.