Reports: Britain to Announce Location of First Spaceport on Wednesday

UK_spaceport_candidates_shorterlistA 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.

  • Charles Lurio

    “Newquay Cornwall Airport in Wales” Really? as the map shows it’s in Cornwall. If that’s a direct quote from one of the tabloids I’m a tad skeptical about the info… 😉

  • Duncan Law-Green

    Her Madge discussing the enabling legislation for a spaceport is not the same as the Government picking the final site. To the best of my knowledge, the shortlisted candidates have not yet been invited to submit formal bids.

    To be fair, neither the Mirror nor the Sun said “Newquay Cornwall Airport in Wales”. Even the average tabloid hack has at least a vague idea of where Cornwall is 😉

    I don’t know where the £150 million figure comes from. Bearing in mind it’s several times the size of the entire Phase 2 National Space Technology Programme I seriously doubt it.

  • Douglas Messier
  • Albinas Bambukas

    This looks completely serious.

    Credit: The Sun.

  • Taffanaut
  • TimAndrews868

    Isn’t that rather like a city planning where to lay streetcar track before anyone’s invented a streetcar that they could buy?

  • golfyboy

    No announcement who is getting spaceport licence.Newquay talking themselves up.No insurance underwriter will insure operators taking off landing there.Newquay swells to 250.000 in summer.Would be 2 million within 2 miles of Galactic. NO Chance.its going there.Cornwall gridlock.Engines need to run on ground regularly.Noise massive.Population to huge,to much risk.
    They Cornwall don’t need economic boast.
    Llanbedr 5 hrs London. 3 hours powerhouse north 15 million people.Birmingham 4 hours.
    Get real Snowdonia is the safest,most isolated site with lowest.population.Needs economic boast.UK taxpayers will get massive value for their investment.
    Cheapest build costs anywhere in UK.
    Wales need boast after losing steel coal.Plus we already have Airbus an ninth minutes away.
    Infrastructure investment Caernarvon bypass, £70 million Penryn bridge £20 million.Llanbedr bypass £13millio. All in next two years.Caernarvon Airport 30 mins away.
    Traffic,visitor control to within 5 miles yet still allowing a million people to watch towards Shell Island.
    So Snowdonia Aerospace Center (Llanbedr )is the Best,logical choice but safety alone says Wales.

  • Knowles2

    The construction of a runway capable of supporting Skylon along could run into hundreds of millions or even billions. So if any 150 million is on the low side.

    The money might also include an investment fund for the area as well to support new businesses and new companies and to attract existing businesses to the area.

  • Knowles2

    The government can easily step in to act as insurers, it has done so in the pact, that no biggy.

  • Knowles2

    or it called getting in early in the hopes that it someone in you country that invents the streetcar.