Following a 2014 consultation that identified eight locations as possibilities for a British spaceport, the U.K government has announced the reduction of that shortlist to six – reports Space News. The locations now ruled out – Kinloss Barracks and RAF Lossiemouth – were deemed unsuitable due to ongoing and future planned operational requirements for the U.K armed forces. The list, Tech Times reports, now consists of Campbeltown, Stornoway and Glasgow Prestwick in Scotland, Llanbedr in Wales, Newquay in England, and RAF Leuchar – although the inclusion of the latter site is simply as a “temporary facility.”
The consultation on criteria for a port dedicated to commercial space flight included feedback from numerous government agencies, related industry, and also the general public – and the outcome was prepared by the Civil Aviation Authority on July 2014. It coincided with the launch of a “space innovation and growth strategy,” intended to cover the period 2014 to 2030. This strategy outlined the various benefits associated with a British spaceport becoming the European centre of scientific endeavour and commercial space transport.
Responding to the updated shortlist – released on March 3 – U.K. Aviation Minister, Robert Goodwill, reiterated the significance of commitment to a British spaceport.
“I want Britain to lead the way in commercial space flight. Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology.”
“Today’s consultation response marks another step forward in our work to support this emerging industry, which will create jobs and drive economic growth.”
The undertaking of such a vast project is a long process however, and the next stage – as detailed on the U.K. government website – is for the Department of Transport to produce “a detailed technical specification” before inviting proposals from interested, shortlisted sites. The corporation with ownership of both Stornoway and Campbeltown airports – Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd – has stated it has no plans to pursue a spaceport proposal at either of those sites, but would support a local group wanting to do so.
“Our preference is to concentrate on our core business of providing airports that serve the people of the Highlands and Islands.”
The support the company would provide would be technical and logistical in nature, as reported by The Stornoway Gazette, and organisations in the Stornoway region are already preparing to source investment. In discussing the intention to submit a proposal, the Chair of the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership, Angus Campbell, noted various factors that could support the bid for the region.
“Stornoway, on behalf of the Outer Hebrides, is very much in the running as the location for the site of the U.K’s Spaceport.”
“Stornoway has a number of critical features that make it an ideal location. Amongst these, are the vast expanse of Atlantic Ocean around us; we are only one hour away from a host of research and development facilities; we have the University of the Highlands and Islands on our doorstep; our northerly location gives more daylight for more of the year than any other location, and we have extremely low air traffic levels.”
“The Comhairlie, HIE [Highlands and Islands Enterprise], our other partners, and the wider community will work together and explore fully the employment and other opportunities that a spaceport in the Outer Hebrides would bring. We will be moving swiftly over the next weeks to explore this opportunity and have already begun setting up a company through which to pursue the Outer Hebrides Spaceport idea. I very much welcome HIAL’s [Highlands and Islands Airports Limited] enthusiasm to engage with potential operators and provide technical assistance and logistical support.”
With the U.K. Department of Transportation due to publish the technical requirements for spaceport proposals later this year, commercial space flight from the U.K. is moving closer to becoming a reality.
[Image: ESA/Getty Images]