UK Identifies 8 Potential Spaceport Locations, Eyes Commercial Flights in 2018

UK spaceport drawing (Credit: UKSA)
UK spaceport drawing (Credit: UKSA)

FARNSBOROUGH, England — The UK’s bid to become Europe’s leading space nation took a giant leap forward today (15 July) as government revealed the 8 locations now under consideration to base Britain’s first spaceport.

Speaking at Farnborough Air Show’s ‘Space Day’, Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill and Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency Dr. David Parker unveiled the findings of a recent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report highlighting 8 possible airfields that could host a spaceport and the economic opportunities it could open up for the UK.

The 8 coastal locations that could be used for a spaceport include:

  • Campbeltown Airport (Scotland)
  • Glasgow Prestwick Airport (Scotland)
  • Llanbedr Airport (Wales)
  • Newquay Cornwall Airport (England)
  • Kinloss Barracks (Scotland)
  • RAF Leuchars (Scotland)
  • RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland)
  • Stornorway Airport (Scotland)

Government’s ambition is for a UK spaceport to open in 2018 – providing a focus for regional and international investment for growth and establishing the UK as a leader in the rapidly-expanding space market.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Space is big business for the UK. It already contributes £11.3 billion to the economy each year, supporting nearly 35,000 jobs. That’s why it’s important for us to prepare the UK for new launcher technology and take steps towards meeting our ambition of establishing the first British spaceport by 2018.

“Exploring the opportunities that commercial spaceflight presents, and potentially making strategic investments in this area, will support the growth of this thriving industry and underpin the economy of tomorrow, making the UK the place for space.”

Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said:

“In order to lead the way on commercial spaceflight, we will need to establish a spaceport that enables us to operate regular flights.

“The work published today has got the ball rolling – now we want to work with others to take forward this exciting project and have Britain’s first spaceport up and running by 2018.”

The Department for Transport will consult on the criteria the CAA has identified that will make a location suitable for a spaceport. In addition to meteorological, environmental and economic factors, these include:

  • an existing runway which is, or is capable of being extended to, over 3000m in length
  • the ability to accommodate dedicated segregated airspace to manage spaceflights safely
  • a reasonable distance from densely populated areas in order to minimise impact on the uninvolved general public

Following the consultation further work will be done to develop locations which remain on the shortlist. This would include seeking the views of local people and other stakeholders before any decisions are taken to proceed with any planned spaceport.

The CAA report, DfT consultation, an artist’s impression of a UK spaceport and Skylon spaceplane concept videos can be downloaded here:

  • Hug Doug

    Map of all locations:

    source –

    The first thing I asked myself was, “where are all these locations?” so if anyone else had the same question, there you go.

  • Dave Salt

    Hope this translates into supportive legislation for launch operations, which is what really counts.

  • Geoff T

    Anyone who’s ever attempted to make the drive from the South to the Highlands knows that after Glasgow the Scottish road network pretty much vanishes to single lanes and windy hill roads. From an infrastructure and tourist potential I’d say Glasgow Prestwick and RAF Leuchars probably have the easiest business case behind them on both fronts.

    Heck with St Andrews so near RAF Leuchars you could probably fit in a suborbital flight between holes on the golf course!

  • Chuck Lauer

    I wonder what the upcoming Scottish referendum on independence from the UK will do to this list of spaceport locations, and also what (if anything) this proposal for UK regulated spaceports in Scotland will do to the leanings of Scottish voters.

  • windbourne

    UK has other territory that is closer to the equator. Why not go there instead?

  • Tonya

    It’s to serve the suborbital market, and the UK is full of potential customers. London is a playground for oligarchs and Saudi princes.

  • Tonya

    Sadly missing from the list iist is Filton Airport in Bristol, former home to the Concorde test flights. Due to the size of its runway and location in the south of the country, it’s been suggested for some years.

    Too much time passed and the land is now in the hands of property developers.

  • Tonya

    Campbeltown, formerly RAF Machrihanish is probably the favourite in the list. It has a very long high quality runway rumoured to have a long covert history with US Air Force missions during the cold war (it’s been called Britain’s Area 51).

    Driving isn’t a concern, any such facility should be remote and would have a dedicated shuttle flight for customers. Glasgow Airport is only 60 miles away as the crow flies.

  • Tonya

    The proposal won’t have any impact on the referendum, and probably not a whole lot of difference to the business case if a Scottish Gov’t wanted to propose the option itself.

  • Solartear

    If it is to be used for Skylon testing and development, and maybe launching assembled Skylons to customers, they will want it close to staff and plant. And what Tonya said.

  • Tonya

    That was also the reason why a lot of people hoped that Filton (Bristol) could be saved. It has a long association with British aviation, the Concorde’s were constructed and then flown from there (the French Concordes from Toulouse).

    Though something such as Skylon may prefer a slightly less populated location. Not necessarily for safety, England is full of nimbys who tie up every proposal or planning application in the courts for years.

    The specification requires that the sites must have a 3km runway, or be capable of being extended to that length, which seems to be directly in support of Skylon development.

  • Geobram

    This subject is a really small one compared to what the general public sees as the main subjects. Most people will never know about these plans and might only hear about is when a site has been chosen and the first flight is going up.

    A sad thing that space is still so unknown to the general public.

  • Solartear

    Their 3km runway requirement seems a bit wrong if it is for Skylon. To my understanding, Skylon could do airbreathing tests at that length, but would require 5+km to spend time in rocket mode.

    The requirement should be: where can it be easily extended to 5.5km, regardless the current length. But maybe they know it isn’t a problem for any of those sites.

  • Tonya

    Yes, 3km is the length required for “Skylon development”. The operational vehicle is expected to require a reinforced runway of around 4.5km, of which a large part is the emergency braking distance for takeoff abort.

    The braking section wouldn’t need to be built to the same standard as the rest. Some of the UK sites could be extended, but it’s more probable that any operational vehicles would be based somewhere near the equator.