The UK government has backed plans to build a spaceport for commercial spaceflight, hoping to eventually offer cosmic flights from Newquay or Glasgow that will be faster than HS2.
It is hoped that the new ports will become hubs for commercial flights into space, offering trips into the cosmos as well as super-fast round the world flights. Companies involved in developing such technology hope that space planes will eventually be able to fly to Australia in two hours.
That could mean a journey from the new port to Sydney would be quicker than a trip to Manchester. Even under the High Speed 2 railway — the Government’s other big transport plan — journey times while travelling around the UK on the train will be comparable with those travelling into space and other places in the world through the spaceport.
“Launching satellites and operating commercial space flights from our shores was once only confined to the depths of science fiction,” said Vince Cable, the business secretary. “But with the results of this consultation we are one step closer to making this a very real ability in the near future.”
The new spaceport, built like an airport but accommodating planes meant for jetting into space, is part of the Government’s plans to become a world-leader in commercial space travel.
“I want Britain to lead the way in commercial spaceflight,” said aviation minister Robert Goodwill. “Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology.”
The Government today backed the plans, following a three-month consultation that included responses from airports and companies.
It will join other spaceports including the one built in Mojave, which was the first to be built for private, commercial spaceflight, and become the first outside of the US. Most of the flights from Mojave have been unmanned tests, run by Virgin Galactic and closely-associated company Scaled Composites.
The UK hopes that it will be able to attract companies like Virgin Galactic and competitor XCOR Aerospace to eventually fly from the site.
The Government also narrowed the list of potential locations. The shortlisted locations are Campbeltown, Glasgow and Stornoway in Scotland, Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales. The plan could use an RAF base near Fife as a temporary facility.
Most of those consulted said that the spaceport should go in a coastal location to protect the public. Spacemiles, a company that claims to offer a product that will allow travellers to pick up points to buy trips into space, said that “there would be a strong aesthetic case for a coastal location from the perspective of a space tourist”.
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But Spacemiles as well as many of the other companies involved in the consultation do not yet appear to be in a position to actually provide commercial space flight. Spacemiles’ website is bare and offers little detail on how exactly its plans would work – and other
The government received 39 responses to the consultation in all – coming from airports and public bodies as well as private companies like Spacemiles and Space Development Ventures, Corp.