A monarch born the year before Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic is set to announce the location of the United Kingdom’s first spaceport on Wednesday, according to British press reports.
Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrated the big 9-0 last month, will make the announcement during a Queen’s speech in which she will discuss advanced transportation technologies that include driverless cars and drones.
Five locations in England, Wales and Scotland are in the running for the spaceport. Officials are looking to for operators to conduct space tourism flights and launch small satellites from the facility.
Two of the UK’s intermittently reliable tabloids — The Mirror and The Sun — are reporting that the government has decided to locate the spaceport at Newquay Cornwall Airport. However, there are details in both stories that seem a bit off. These include:
- six sites under consideration instead of five;
- a graphic labeled as how a spaceflight might work that features the retired U.S. space shuttle blasting off to the north over populated areas for a rendezvous with the International Space Station in polar orbit. (This might be what the Brits call cheeky humour.)
- a description of the spaceport being the first facility of its kind outside of the United States;
- a claim that the spaceport alone could raise British from space from £12 billion to £40 billion annually within 15 years;
- the belief that space travelers would drive six hours from London for a six-hour trip to space. For one, millionaires and billionaires are probably going to fly from London. Two, nobody’s offering a six hour trip to space.
- a £150 million ($215 million) price tag for the project, a suspiciously high figure for a facility that would be built at an existing airport. Spaceport America has cost about $225 million, but that was built from scratch in the middle of nowhere and included an expensive, custom-built hangar facility for Virgin Galactic. Even with a small satellite vertical launch facility, it couldn’t cost that much. Could it?
We’ll see what the monarch announces on Wednesday. I really hope the British government doesn’t go overboard on the spending and the hype here. They could end up setting themselves and the country up for a let down later on. American spaceports have plenty of experience with that.