The UK government has drawn up a shortlist of locations for a commercial spaceport for Europe. The Department of Transport (DfT) announced on Tuesday plans to deliver the country’s first hub for public space travel “moved a step forward” after three months of consultations.
In the report, the government confirms “widespread support” for the project, which it says “paves the way towards making commercial spaceflight operations in the UK a reality.” It wouldn’t just be Britain’s first, by the way, but Europe’s too.
The report lists a number of locations for the site and notes that a coastal location is required. The shortlist was drawn up by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and is made up of Newquay in Cornwall, Campeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, and Stornoway in Scotland, and Llanbedr in Wales. Yes, there could soon be a European spaceport in Cornwall. Or Wales.
According to the consultation, criteria for an appropriate spot includes an existing civil or military aerodrome with a runway over 3,000m, space for “special use airspace,” and that it is a suitable distance away from densely populated areas.
Last year, the government launched the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy after in 2012 establishing initial plans to actually build a spaceport in the UK. The DfT and CAA want to see “operational” spaceplanes in the UK as early as 2018. Talks over how to implement a working spaceport in the UK are ongoing, but this latest announcement demonstrates the government’s desire to make it happen.
Respondents in the latest consultation includes some big names — and may point towards who might be more involved in the future. Alongside councils, airports, and environmental groups, there are the likes of Virgin Galactic and global space engineers HE Space.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said in the announcement today that a spaceport would be one of the country’s biggest science achievements. He said he believes the industry could be worth as much as $US400 billion to the global economy by 2030 and added tht the consultation results make the project a “very real ability in the near future.”
Now, the DfT is going to develop a detailed technical specification of what a spaceport would actual need before opening up the stage for proposals to actually build a commercial hub for European space travel.
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