U.K. — The Place for Space?

U.K Spaceport concept.  Image: U.K. Space Agency via Spaceref

U.K Spaceport concept. Image: U.K. Space Agency via Spaceref

The UK is considering to open a spaceport and do it by 2018. The idea is for the UK to become a leader in the growing space market.

Business Secretary Vince Cable:

“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

He and the government are very likely correct, a spaceport will provide a focal point for investment, provided they can get established early on and now is the time.

So how do they plan on getting a spaceport up and running by 2018? It won’t be as difficult as you might expect because existing facilities can be adapted. A recent civil Aviation Authority report named eight existing airfields that might be able to host an spaceport and not just any place will do because in addition to meteorological, environmental and economic criteria a few physical factors come into play:

– an existing runway which is, or is capable of being extended to, over 3000 metres in length
– the ability to accommodate dedicated segregated airspace to manage spaceflights safely
– a reasonable distance from densely populated areas in order to minimise impact on the uninvolved general public

The eight possibilities:

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)

Will the UK become “The Place for Space”? I wouldn’t bet against it.