The location of UK’s first spaceport was narrowed down to six possible sites today after the industry backed the government’s plans.
After a three-month consultation, the UK is a step closer to launch tourists into space as well as small commercial satellites. Interested parties from the aviation industry rallied around the commercial spaceport operations scheme expected to be operational by 2018.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) cut from the eight locations named last July and the shortlisted sites are now Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick and Stornoway in Scotland, as well as Newquay in England and Llanbedr in Wales.
However, two airfields at RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks in Moray were ruled out in the process due to "overriding military operational factors".
This prompted SNP Moray MP Angus Robertson to criticise the decision saying that it was “an extremely bad decision by the government”.
“Given the keen interest shown in Moray's location and facilities by Virgin Galactic it is an inexplicable decision.”
The next step will be for the Department of Transport to develop a detailed technical specification of spaceport requirements, due to be published later this year, before accepting proposals.
“I want Britain to lead the way in commercial spaceflight. Establishing a spaceport will ensure we are at the forefront of this exciting new technology,” Robert Goodwill, aviation minister, said.
The government hopes the proposed spaceport could help the UK capture 10 per cent of the world space market by 2030, worth £400bn a year, by becoming Europe’s leading spaceplane launch facility.
“Today’s consultation response marks another step forward in our work to support this emerging industry, which will create jobs and drive economic growth,” Goodwill said.
The CAA said potential spaceport sites should have a runway which is already more than 3,000 meters long or could be extended to that length, and is located away from densely populated areas.
Taking about the construction of the spaceport, Business Secretary Vince Cable hailed it as “one of our biggest science achievements”.