UK promises commercial spaceport 'by 2018' with 6 of 8 potential locations in Scotland

Ministers promise that there will be a "role" for Scotland as six of the spaceport's eight potential sites are north of the border

The UK Government has outlined plans to create the country’s first spaceport by 2018, unv3eiling eight potential locations for the site – six of which are in Scotland.

“Spaceports will be key to us opening up the final frontier of commercial space travel,” said Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander at the announcement of the new sites.

Mr Alexander hinted that the plans could lead to Scotland becoming the home of the UK’s commercial space ambitions, even as the Scottish government warns that only independence will secure a successful space industry for the country.

"The UK space industry is one of our great success stories and I am sure there will be a role for Scotland to play in the future,” said Mr Alexander.

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Government figures show that the space sector is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries, generating more than £11 billion for the economy every year and employing around 34,000 people – a 9 per cent increase on employment figures from 2011.

A UK-based spaceport could be used to launch satellites as well as commercial spaceflights, with the Government hoping that Richard Branson will build the port as part of his space tourism project Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic’s first flights are scheduled to take off from a purpose-built spaceport in New Mexico at the start of the year, with passengers paying £120,000 for a 150-minute flight that will climb to heights of around 62 miles to achieve zero gravity for approximately six minutes.

The New Mexico-based port is one of nine built in the US – the only country that currently offers commercial space flights. The US government has funded the country’s space sector to the tune of $35.6 billion – a figure that significantly outweighs the UK Government’s £300m ($513m) funding.

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